In Race for Attorney General, Tong and Kordas Take 5 Questions on Abortion

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Connecticut Attorney General William Tong and his challenger in the November election, Jessica Kordas, answered a series of questions about their positions on abortion.

Tong said in a statement to CT Examiner that he would be the “first to sue” if a nationwide ban on abortion was passed, and called on active defense and protection of reproductive rights. He also pushed back against the idea that Connecticut was protected from the Supreme Court’s decision despite the state’s laws that allow abortion through the age of viability.  

“It’s not enough to say you are pro-choice. Those are empty words. You have to prove it.  Will candidates stand up to members of their own party to defend choice? How will candidates defend and enforce the reproductive rights law the legislature just passed? Will candidates oppose ANY rollbacks to our strong laws protecting abortion rights? ” Tong said. “Any claim that this is a “non issue” or that we are trying to scare people is absurd. People ARE scared. The Supreme Court is responsible for that. And I reject any suggestion that Connecticut is ‘fine.’ We are not fine. My wife, my daughters, my sisters, my mom, are less free and less safe and have fewer rights than they had in June. How are we fine?”

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Kordas told CT Examiner that she didn’t foresee the law changing in Connecticut, and that abortion would remain “safe and legal” if she were the attorney general. She also said she didn’t anticipate the Dobbs ruling threatening other rights, based on the opinions of the majority of Supreme Court Justices. But she said she wanted to hear a discussion about abortion that took into account the human angle of the issue. 

“We for better or worse, politicians and our lawmakers — especially in this conversation — seem to leave out the emotional component. And I think that when we dehumanize the people that are having to make these decisions and the people that these laws impact … then we look at it just as words on paper, and it’s not,” Kordas said. “This is a human issue. It’s a people issue, it’s a women’s issue, and we have to be mindful that not every situation is the same. And I think that when we start approaching our laws in a very pragmatic, practical, and human way, then we start to find real solutions.” 

Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity. 

CTEx: Do you believe the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Center was decided correctly?

Tong: I strongly disagree with the Court’s legal analysis in reversing long-settled law on the fundamental constitutional rights to abortion, reproductive freedom, and privacy. The Dobbs decision carved our nation in two—states like Connecticut that trust the personal and professional decisions of women and doctors, and states where craven politicians control and criminalize those choices. We need to be clear-eyed and realistic about just how dangerous this decision was for women, patients, and doctors, and what it signals for every single major decision before the Court. 

Make no mistake—Dobbs was just the beginning of a systematic right-wing effort to rewrite decades of bedrock legal precedent, the foundation of which is our long-recognized right to privacy in making our most personal decisions. We are going to see a tsunami of radical litigation and legislation aimed at further eroding fundamental rights we have fought for for generations. Marriage equality, inter-racial marriage, and access to birth control are all under threat now. We are going to need to be vigilant, aggressive and proactive to defend our rights.

Kordas: I’ll be honest with you, I think the Supreme Court got it wrong. I think that there should be an absolute right up until a certain point. Everyone wants to paint abortion as this black and white issue. And I think that, having had two children, I couldn’t imagine having to make a decision, after feeling my child moving around inside of me. Making those decisions has to be heart wrenching. And I think that we have to be aware of that. Politicians and in the news and things like that, we forget that there’s such a human factor here. And we’ve got to be cognizant of that. 

As a woman and as a lawyer, it was disheartening to read the first 20-some-odd pages of the court’s decision where there was a very clear history of back to 1609 of not prosecuting people criminally for abortions prior to the age of quickening — which is somewhere between 16 and 18 weeks —  and all of a sudden, at the end of this very long 20 page history, the court says, “Well, there’s not a history of being entitled to abortion.” I think that the court will be challenged. I think lawyers may have made a mistake here in arguing all or nothing because it’s just not an all or nothing issue.

CTEx: Do you believe that there should be a legally-enforced time limit during which women may receive an abortion and, if so, what should that time limit be?

Tong: Connecticut law explicitly states that the decision to terminate a pregnancy prior to the viability of the fetus is solely between the patient and their healthcare provider (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 19a-602). Viability is determined by medical judgment. I will defend this law against any challenge.

Kordas: The [Supreme] Court and [Planned Parenthood v.] Casey attempted with the best information they had to make a decision on what the age of viability was. I think that becomes a moving target as medicine and medical practices change. But I also don’t think that’s a hard stop. Right now, the law in Connecticut is the age of viability. And Casey said that that was 26 weeks. I don’t think that says absolutely never after 26 weeks.

I think if there is a clear medical reason — I think that there have to be exceptions for certain situations. This is one of those things that is so complicated because it’s situational. Every single person’s situation is different, and the medical conditions are different. I think doctors should be assisting in having these conversations. If there is a condition with the child, if there is a clear medical condition with mom, I think with the assistance of a provider, women should be able to make those choices. 

CTEx: Do you believe there should be legal requirements for parental notification and consent if a minor wishes to recieve an abortion? Do you believe there should be requirements for spousal notification or consent if a woman wishes to recieve an abortion?

Tong: Connecticut law does not require parental or spousal notification or consent. The statute does, however, mandate that patients younger than age 16 receive information and counseling prior to obtaining an abortion, except in emergencies. The counseling requirement has been in place since 1990 (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 19a-601). I am committed to defending the statute.

Kordas: I think that this is, again, not a black or white issue. I think there should always be exceptions for children. We have to protect our children. I never want to put a child in a situation where they’re being told that they must have a child by their parents or where they’re afraid of physical punishment or something like that when they go home.

This is one of those conversations that you have as a parent and you’re like, “Oh, would I ever want my daughter to feel like she couldn’t come home and tell me?” I would never want her to feel that way, but having done criminal defense litigation and child protection cases and things like that, I know there are cases where there needs to be a carve out.

I think that notification, except in circumstances where notification isn’t possible —- because it’s dangerous, because it’s risky, because it presents a problem — I think notification, maybe not consent, but notification is appropriate.

CTEx: Do you believe an abortion should be available to women in the case of rape, or when a doctor has advised that there is risk to the life of the mother?

Tong: Connecticut law permits patients to obtain abortions in these cases prior to viability, or post-viability when there is a risk to the life or health of the patient (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 19a-602). I am committed to defending the statute.

Kordas: Yes. 

CTEx: Do you believe that an abortion should be permissible if the pregnancy is diagnosed with a fatal condition or with a life-long disability?

Tong: Connecticut law permits patients to obtain abortions in these cases prior to viability, or post-viability when there is a risk to the life or health of the patient (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 19a-602). I am committed to defending the statute.

Kordas: Yes. 

CTEx: What medical qualifications should be required to supervise or perform an an abortion?

Tong: Under Connecticut law, physicians licensed under Connecticut law may perform abortions. In addition, a recent amendment to the statute permits Connecticut-licensed advance practice registered nurses, nurse midwives and physicians assistants to perform certain types of abortions, consistent with their licensure statutes  (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 19a-602, as amended by Public Act 22-19). I am committed to defending the statute.

Kordas: It’s a major surgery. And I think we need to make sure that whatever provider is qualified to provide other similar major surgeries, then that should be the standard. I don’t think that abortion should be an outlier. I think it should be treated within the standard of care, like other medical procedures.

[In a recent amendment to the statute] I know that there was a push to align what other procedures physicians assistants are allowed to perform. Consistent with the information that I’ve read, I believe that this was bringing in line abortions with other types of surgical procedures that were able to be performed by PAs. It is not an example of giving a less qualified medical provider exceptional authority. I believe that the bill was simply conforming other similar procedures and adding this to what a PA is already capable and trained of doing.


Emilia Otte

Emilia Otte covers health and education for the Connecticut Examiner. In 2022 Otte was awarded "Rookie of the Year," by the New England Newspaper & Press Association.

e.otte@ctexaminer.com