The US Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade last week ended the constitutional right to abortion, leaving regulation of reproductive rights to the states. In Connecticut, which has some of the strongest anti-abortion protections in the nation — and a former businessman at the helm — those rights quickly became a recruiting tool.
On Friday, just a week after the Supreme Court’s ruling, Gov. Ned Lamont and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysevich released an open letter addressed to “Dear Business Owners” with a timely reminder of where Connecticut stands on reproductive health.
“We are writing to any business owner who is frustrated with their current state of affairs,” the letter said. “If you want to move to a state that supports women’s rights and whose actions and laws are steadfast in supporting tolerance and inclusion, Connecticut is for you.”
The governor’s administration simultaneously released a video of Lamont speaking directly to the cameranoting that many states will roll back abortion rights as a result of the ruling.
“Not here in Connecticut,” Lamont says. “Not while I’m governor.”
As of noon Friday, the video, posted on the governor’s Twitter account, had more than 16,000 views.
Lamont spokesman Max Rice said the letter and video were distributed to “members of the press in countless states,” with the idea that business owners elsewhere could hear the Connecticut governor’s announcement on their local news.
“If it sparks a conversation in places like Texas or Florida or Missouri, we think that’s good for Connecticut,” Rice said.
Both Lamont and his predecessor, former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, touted the state’s business climate by touting its progressive social policies. In the video, Lamont called Connecticut “the most family-friendly state in the country,” citing paid family leave, support for early childhood education and daycare, and the state’s highly ranked education system.
But some businesses say those costs could increase. In its latest member survey, the Connecticut Association of Business and Industry found that 14 percent of business owners in the state say workplace mandates and compliance costs are the main factor hindering their growth; 18% cited high business taxes as the most important thing holding them back.
On Friday, Lamont’s Republican opponent, Bob Stefanowski, said he doubted Connecticut’s abortion laws would be very attractive to businesses, which consider many factors when making location decisions.
“I don’t think there’s that much of a connection,” Stefanowski said. “I don’t see the direct connection of the governor. That’s a nice talking point. But I don’t think that’s a reason for companies to come to Connecticut.
Bruce McGuire, president of the Connecticut Hedge Fund Association in Greenwich, said, “If Connecticut was stuck between a bunch of red states, that argument would be much stronger.” The alternative investment sector, which includes hedge funds and private equity, is located largely close to Wall Street, he said, and Connecticut’s neighboring states are already “locked in” on the abortion issue.
“We’re not competing with South Dakota for talent,” McGuire said.
Fran Pastore, founder and CEO of the Stamford Women’s Business Development Council, said she has seen an outpouring of interest from female entrepreneurs looking for support to launch their businesses in Connecticut. Of the approximately 1,000 applicants for WBDC’s small business grant program this year, half were from out of state, she said.
Progressive economic policies to support working women—from small business subsidies to paid family and medical leave, child care funding and an increase in the minimum wage (which rose to $14 an hour on July 1 in Connecticut)—have the compounding effect to get more women “a seat at the table,” Pastore said. And she believes that’s a good thing, regardless of politics.
“Let’s be honest, five men and one woman have just made up their minds for more than 52% of the population,” she said. “Whether you’re pro-choice or not, women need to look at the decision-makers everywhere — in corporate America, in Washington, D.C., and in Hartford, Connecticut.”
Staff writer Mark Pazniokas contributed to this report.