Approximately 150-200 people attended a rally held in support of abortion rights on Sunday afternoon, May 15, on the front lawn of Wilton Town Hall.
Organized by half a dozen women involved in Democratic politics from Wilton, Weston, Redding and Ridgefield, the event featured as speakers several state and local government officials as well as political candidates. There were also women who shared their own abortion stories.
The rally was held in reaction to the recently leaked Supreme Court draft opinion indicating the 50-year-old Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion is likely to be overturned.
Calling the event Voices for Choices, the rally was planned as a regional response to show public objection to what organizers say is how far the anticipated decision goes in rolling back certain rights.
GOOD Morning Wilton was at the rally and live-streamed the speakers. Below are both the edited recorded version of the full event and clips of each speaker. [Editor’s note: connectivity issues hampered some portions of the coverage and the videos have been edited to omit some portions that were disrupted.]
People of every age filled the audience that gathered to hear the speakers. Some held signs reading, “My Body, My Choice,” “Never Again,” or “We will not go back!”
Organizers wanted the visual of a large group on a very visible central Fairfield County spot.
“We felt that Wilton was simply the most central town between all of us that might get the most participation from our people,” explained Gayle Weinstein, the chair of Weston’s Democratic Town Committee and the event’s organizer as well as its emcee. “We wanted to do it at Wilton Town Hall because it’s right on Route 7, so we were hoping that passers-by would see us and come out and support our cause.”
Weinstein said that even though Connecticut has support on both sides of the political aisle for reproductive rights, those rights are not guaranteed, and showing support is important nonetheless.
“This is a nationwide issue. We don’t live in just our little state. We cross the border and you don’t want to have to tell your daughter when she’s going to college, that she can’t go to the University of Texas in Austin, because God forbid she gets pregnant, she’s not going to be able to have an abortion there. The implications of this are so much greater. Plus it also has an impact [depending] on who is governor. In these conservative states, you’re going to see more and more conservative governors put these rules into place. The purpose is to drive out some of the moderate Democrats or liberal Democrats who live in their state, to try to keep their state red. And that is just not okay. We must do everything that we can to protect a woman’s right to choose, regardless of what state they live in,” she added.
Like many speakers, Weinstein said the current embattled abortion issue represents something much larger.
“When we talk about the issue of body autonomy, that has a serious impact on trans people — will they not be able to live the life that they feel that they should be leading? It’s not my decision, it’s not your decision, it’s nobody’s decision to tell them what is their personal truth. The same thing with who a person loves, is that going to be what’s next, where we have the government intruding on who we love, making decisions as to who we can marry, who we want to be, how we want to present ourselves? And then abortion, which is a deeply personal medical choice that a woman needs to make, sacred between herself — maybe a partner, maybe not — and between a doctor, is [a decision] that she alone should have that right,” Weinstein said.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D), who is running for re-election, said that even though Connecticut protects reproductive choice in the state, the threat to abortion from some conservative U.S. legislators is more significant than a potential overturn of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court. He cited U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who last week said he’s open to a nationwide ban criminalizing abortion — a move that would override any CT state law.
“This fight is really a matter of life and death. You are the ones who are going to stop Mitch McConnell from becoming the next majority leader and imposing Mitch McConnell’s will on the nation. But it’s not just Mitch McConnell; we know in 23 states, bans on abortion will go into effect,” Blumenthal said. He urged supporters to take their fight to the ballot box. “Take the spirit and energy and fight that you’re showing today in states across the nation, the nation where pro-choice senators, pro-choice members of Congress are on the ballot… in states like New Hampshire and Georgia and Arizona and Nevada, and hopefully in Ohio and North Carolina and Wisconsin. If we win those seats, we can eliminate the filibuster for reproductive rights and pass the Women’s Health Protection Act.”
Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz (D) also made it a campaign issue, and said abortion rights should be added to the CT State Constitution. Abortion rights as well as other rights should be a litmus test for all candidates, Bysiewicz said.
“Even though we are in this beautiful state that protects gay marriage, that protects women’s reproductive healthcare, we have to be vigilant. So when you have the opportunity to meet candidates, especially the ones that are not standing right here, you need to ask them, will you veto any bill that comes to your desk? That would cut back on our Roe v. Wade law. Because there’s a person running for governor — and it’s not [my running mate, current Gov.] Ned [Lamont] — who won’t answer that question. So we need to be very specific. We need to do our research and we need to ask candidates for state office, for federal office, exactly where they stand. Because this isn’t just about our reproductive freedom. It is about our freedom to marry who we choose, to make decisions about our life,” Bysiewicz said, adding, “So many rights are on the ballot, potentially on the chopping block.”
William Tong (D) is running for re-election as CT’s Attorney General. He said it’s important to hold candidates accountable to do “more than pay lip service” because even with recently passed state legislation supporting reproductive rights in the state, CT residents still “are not safe.”
Wilton’s current state senator Will Haskell (D-26) is not running for re-election. But he echoed calls to make support for abortion rights a litmus test for candidates who are seeking to be elected.
“Unfortunately, my party has not done a good job of drawing a line in the sand and saying, ‘You’re either with us or you are against us.’ We have tolerated talk of a middle ground of restrictions here and there and notification requirements. When the truth is much simpler — you either believe that the choices a pregnant person makes are made by the patient themselves, or you believe that they’re made by the government. There’s no middle ground on this,” Haskell said, adding, “We’ve got to out-organize the so-called pro-life side. We’ve got to march from here straight into the voting booth in November and after election day. More importantly, hold your elected officials accountable. Make sure that you remind them, there is no middle ground on this issue. They are either with us or against us. ”
“Any suggestion that, ‘No we’re good, Roe v. Wade has been codified, we’d just pass a new law. Don’t worry about it,’ is nonsense because Roe is not the last step. If Roe falls, that’s not the end, that’s the beginning; not just in our fight, but for the people that want to fundamentally remake our lives and turn the clock back more than 50 years, hundreds of years. They’re going to come for us and we have to defend not just our laws, but people, families, patients, women, doctors, clinics, practices, hospitals. This is going to be an all-out battle,” Tong said.
Ceci Maher, the Democratic candidate to represent Wilton for the 26th State Senate seat, said she had a difficult time believing the U.S. would not be “on par with other countries around the world who have already codified [abortion rights] into their constitutions.” She called abortion choice “an economic choice,” and said it was a choice to make in the voting booth.
“You need to vote into office the people who have stood up and said unified, ‘We will protect a woman’s choice and not just a woman’s choice, but LGBTQ trans voting all of the things that are on the ballot.'”
The event, of course, involved partisan politics. GMW has a deeper look at that today as well.
Interview with Gayle Weinstein, Organizer and Weston Democratic Town Committee Chair
Interview with Attorney General William Tong (D, running for re-election)
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D, running for re-election)
Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz (D, running for re-election)
State Sen. Will Haskell (D-26)
State Rep. Anne Hughes (D-135 Weston, Easton, Redding; Running for Re-Election)
Pro-Choice Advocate Meagan Burns-Min
Editor’s note: we were unable to capture the recording of Meagan Burns-Min. We are sharing her own video with permission. It will be added to the full event video shortly. (12:15 p.m.)
Pro-Choice Advocate Carolyn Hill Bjerke
State Rep. Sean Scanlon (D-98, Guilford and Branford); Democratic Candidate for CT Comptroller
State Rep. Stephanie Thomas (D-143 Wilton and Norwalk); Democratic Candidate for Secretary of State
Ceci Maher, Democratic Candidate for State Senate CT-26 (Wilton)
State Rep. Aimee Berger-Girvalo (D-111 Ridgefield; Running for re-election)
Dominique Johnson, Democratic Candidate for State Representative 143rd District (Norwalk and Westport)
Erick Russell, Democratic Candidate for CT State Treasurer
Celeste LaCroix, Westport League of Women Voters President
Gayle Weinstein, Closing Remarks