State Democrats hold press conference
Connecticut Democrats hold a press conference on June 22, 2023 to mark the one year anniversary of the Dobbs decision Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

One year on, the dismantling of national abortion rights continued to be a rallying cry for Connecticut Democrats, who on Thursday marked the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s reversal of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. 

Democrats including legislators, constitutional officers and the state party chair gathered in a Hartford parking lot for a morning press conference beneath a mural, which prominently featured the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

The occasion was the approaching anniversary of the high court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which on June 24, 2022, overturned nearly 50 years of abortion protections and cleared the way for new restrictions in states across the country. 

Thursday’s event served both to highlight efforts by Connecticut policymakers to preserve reproductive rights and urge voters to support Democrats willing to support access to abortion care.

“I want everyone to know that all of us are committed to fighting for women’s reproductive freedom and we will fight at the ballot box, we will fight in the legislature, we will fight in the United States Congress and we will fight in the state and federal courts to protect women’s reproductive rights,” Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said. 

Connecticut policymakers have redoubled efforts to preserve abortion access. In the weeks before the Dobbs decision was handed down, the state legislature approved a new law designed to shield patients and doctors from legal action for performing abortions. 

Since then, new laws have sought to extend additional protections to abortion providers and broaden access to contraceptives

Meanwhile, Attorney General William Tong has joined his counterparts in like-minded states to intervene against legal efforts to revoke regulator approval of a widely used abortion pill. Earlier this week, he appointed two special counsels to work on reproductive rights cases. 

“There’s nothing to celebrate today,” Tong said on Thursday. “It’s been a year since basic, fundamental civil rights — human rights — were taken away from women, patients, doctors, nurses across this country.” 

During the past year, state Democrats and abortion rights advocates have also held several press conferences, hosted sympathetic federal officials, and attended rallies. In January, they gathered in the state Capitol to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the now-defunct Roe decision.  

In an interview Thursday, Ben Proto, chair of the Connecticut Republican Party, said that abortion policy decisions properly belonged with individual states and Connecticut had chosen to enshrine access to the procedure in state law. Democratic focus on the issue was a distraction, he said. 

“Democrats are again attempting to divert people’s attention from the real problems,” Proto said. “A woman in the state of Connecticut doesn’t have an issue with access to abortion but she may be shot in downtown Hartford or New Haven and suffer consequences from that.”

Proto argued state policymakers’ time might be better spent on laws to ensure broader access to health care for women. 

“How is it that we still have limited access for women of color and women of less financial means to health care be it reproductive health care or otherwise?” he said. “Democrats have failed in that regard.”

Advocates on the other side of the abortion issue have also mobilized in the past year. In March, thousands of residents opposed to abortion marched to the state Capitol as part of a nationwide event called the March for Life.

On Thursday, polling aggregation and analysis site FiveThirtyEight reported that recent surveys suggest that as the Dobbs anniversary approaches, Americans are generally more supportive of abortion rights than they had been since 2000. 

Meanwhile, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released last month found more Americans, around 42%, reported that the Democratic Party better represents their positions on abortion issues than the Republican Party, which polled at around 26%.

State Democrats sought Thursday to ensure that voters take their positions on abortion with them to the polls in the coming years. Rep. Jillian Gilchrest, a West Hartford Democrat who co-chairs the legislature’s Reproductive Rights Caucus, enumerated some of the actions Connecticut lawmakers have taken in response to the Dobbs decision. 

“We will only be able to continue to do that if we continue to elect Democrats — pro-choice Democrats — who recognize the point we’re at in our country’s history,” she said. “This fight is never going to be over.”