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Local abortion rights groups navigate midterms, Kavanaugh confirmation fallout

Some question whether the new Supreme Court Justice will overturn — or diminish the power of — Roe v. Wade

Courtesy of Elizabeth Greenewald/Wikimedia Commons

As the Nov. 6 midterm elections approach, many pro-choice and pro-life activists disagree over the possibility of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision in 1973 to make abortion legal nationwide, after Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as Supreme Court justice on Oct. 6.

Even before multiple allegations of sexual assault surfaced against Kavanaugh, he was considered a controversial Supreme Court pick for women because of his stance on abortion.

Kavanaugh is a devout Catholic, and many legal analysts have argued that his past rulings and statements on the subject suggest he would curtail abortion rights. He joins four other Supreme Court justices who have either stated or suggested that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, potentially tipping the scale against the 1973 decision.

Nevertheless, Kavanaugh has reiterated that he acknowledges the importance of the “precedent” set by the Roe v. Wade decision.

Amy Everitt, the state director of pro-choice organization NARAL (formerly the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws), said she is concerned about the fate of Roe v. Wade.

“I think it’s a matter of when, not if,” Everitt said. “There are 13 cases going through the federal judicial system right now that are direct hits on Roe.”

Everitt added that her team at NARAL is “running one of [their] largest midterm political programs ever,” paying special attention to “dozens and dozens of house and senate races,” and “continuing to adjust [their] strategy.”

However, Everitt said she worries that the California midterms could replace pro-choice politicians with pro-life ones.

“Some of the biggest anti-choice people are in races in California,” she said, referring to a “state-by-state” approach that anti-abortion lobbyists are taking to embolden the pro-life movement in the wake of Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

“If we can take [pro-life candidates] out, we are improving our opportunity to protect women’s right to choose,” Everitt added.

However, Stanford Students for Life member Carolyn Manion ’19 said she does not think Justice Kavanaugh’s place on the court jeopardizes the legality of abortion.

“Personally, I find an overturn of Roe v. Wade anytime soon unlikely,” Manion said. “Even Kavanaugh himself has never to my knowledge expressed that as a goal.”

According to Manion, Stanford Students for Life does not focus its efforts on political lobbying, but rather on promoting an ethical outlook as well as “protecting human life at every stage, and helping local pregnant women and new mothers find the resources they need to allow them to raise their child safely and comfortably.”

She said Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court has not affected the pro-life group’s tactics.

“The pro-life movement certainly intersects with politics and many political groups use it to garner support from their voter base,” Manion said. “But I think — ultimately — current political events change the movement’s primary goals and tactics very little.”

Everitt disagrees, noting that she considers the 2018 midterms to be a pivotal election for the pro-choice movement.

“This midterm election has always been about the right to choose,” Everitt said, “I don’t think it’s just Kavanaugh. I think it’s from when Trump got elected… one of the number one reasons women were taking to the streets was because of abortion. I don’t think it has let up for one minute.”

 

Contact Sarah Crable at scrable ‘at’ stanford.edu

 

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