Vote 2022: Stefanowski says he ‘misspoke’ about limiting abortion access to first trimester
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski said he “misspoke” about sharply limiting abortion access in a televised forum Thursday night. Although Stefanowski has repeatedly promised to uphold Connecticut’s existing law, Gov. Ned Lamont’s campaign said he’s “finally come clean” about the issue.
Stefanowski’s comments came during a WFSB-TV/CT Insider forum.
WFSB political reporter Susan Raff asked, "I want to know, as a person, Bob Stefanowski, how you feel about abortion."
After reiterating his pledge to preserve existing state law allowing the procedure, Stefanowski said, "I think abortion should be limited to the first trimester."
The first trimester ends at 12 weeks, when some people don’t know they’re pregnant yet. Connecticut allows abortions until "fetal viability,” which can be up to 26 weeks.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a dozen Republican-led states have banned abortion, and others are considering it. A first trimester limit would make Connecticut law more restrictive than 37 other states. It’s also less than a 15-week national abortion standard proposed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
On Friday, Stefanowski walked back his comments, insisting what he said on television does not reflect his true feelings.
"I misspoke last night, right? It happens,” said Stefanowski. “Gov. Lamont's had some whoppers."
Democrats have attempted to make reproductive rights a key campaign issue, while Republicans have downplayed its significance in Connecticut.
“We have known and said all along that Bob Stefanowski would not defend Connecticut women’s right to choose if he was governor and now he has finally come clean,” said Jake Lewis, a spokesperson for Lamont’s campaign.
Friday morning, Democrats held a virtual news conference to denounce Stefanowski’s statement.
"As we've been saying all along, people cannot trust Bob Stefanowski to protect women's reproductive rights in Connecticut,” said Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz.
News 12 asked Byesiewicz if Stefanowski might have been mistaken about how long a trimester is.
"You know what? Then you shouldn't be running for governor,” she said. “This is the biggest campaign issue, or one of the biggest, that we face. And if you can’t get that right after two tries, I don’t even know what to say.”
Lamont recently expanded abortion access in Connecticut, including a “safe harbor” law shielding providers and patients from out-of-state legal actions. Stefanowski has not said whether he supports the law, but has stated he will uphold it.
One of the law’s authors said, even if Stefanowski doesn't change existing law, he could still limit abortion access.
"The governor gets to appoint a director of public health who gets to write, or re-write, regulations potentially around abortion reproductive health care in the state of Connecticut,” said state Rep. Matt Blumenthal (D-Stamford), co-chair of the legislature’s Reproductive Rights Caucus.
Stefanowski brushed aside the criticism.
"Man, these guys are stretching now. They really are,” he said. “We're going to support the law. Period."
Stefanowski did say he would introduce a parental notification law for most minors. Lamont opposes that idea.