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Anti-Abortion, Paid Protestors and the Push to Confirm Kavanaugh

Jesse Wright
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Anti-abortion protestors outside of Senator Joe Manchin's Office in Fairmont

Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court began Tuesday, Sept. 4. Kavanaugh is considerably more conservative than the justice he would replace — a fact celebrated by the anti-abortion advocacy group the Susan B. Anthony List.

The organization has been touring several states during the past few weeks, urging democratic senators like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin to vote to confirm Kavanaugh.

Last week, about 30 people, including eight or so children, gathered outside Senator Manchin’s office in Fairmont. They held signs saying things like “confirm Kavanaugh” and “I Vote Pro Life.” Almost everyone who attended the rally was from out of state.

“I’m passionate about getting pro-life leaders elected into office,” said Ella Witt, a master’s student at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, and the West Virginia field director for the Susan B. Anthony List. A week ago, she posted in a public facebook group for the university offering $150 to anyone willing to attend the West Virginia pro-life events in Wheeling, Parkersburg and Fairmont. At least for the Parkersburg and Fairmont rallies, almost exactly the same group attended both events.

Credit Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Most of the protesters came to West Virginia from Ohio for the anti-abortion rallies. They were paid $150 for their efforts.

“And you see sometimes I think people can try to take that and twist that and that’s totally wrong,” Witt said. “What it is — people would not be coming out here and doing something and door knocking -- you know it takes a lot of courage to go and knock on a door. It takes a lot of courage to stand and talk to reporters and behind a camera. People aren’t going to do that unless they’re passionate about it. What’s important to us is that if we have the means to be able to thank them and pay them for their time.”

Paying protestors is not unheard of and has been practiced by both liberal and conservative groups. What’s most interesting about this case is that most of the rally-goers are from out of state. This push is representative of just how much organizers want an anti-abortion judge on the country’s highest court. Manchin’s office did not respond to a request for comment about the statewide rallies.

“We actually believe that judge Kavanuagh is a very experienced jurist in his own right, has a lot of constitutional knowledge and experience, and certainly on the life issue, issues of conscious, religious freedom excetra,” said Sue Swayze Liebel, Director of the SBA List National Pro-life Women’s Caucus and the main speaker at the West Virginia events.

While there weren’t counter protestors at any of last week’s events, the grassroots advocacy organization West Virginia Working Families Party held their own event outside Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito’s office in Morgantown. They expressed concerns about Kavanaugh’s judicial record on health care insurance, specifically coverage of pre-existing conditions, labor law and protections for people with disabilities. Counter protestors also attended a Charleston Susan B. Anthony event held in July.  

Credit Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Sue Liebel, Director of the SBA List National Pro-Life Women's Caucus, speaks outside West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin's office in Fairmont.

In August, the Susan B. Anthony List launched a $1.6 million issue advocacy campaign to, “educate West Virginia voters about Sen. Manchin’s support for taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion business.”

The West Virginia push seemed to be two-fold. Firstly, to pressure Manchin into voting to confirm, while simultaneously turning West Virginia voters against the senator who they say has flip-flopped on the issue.

Organizers said they hope the Senator will “respect the will of West Virginians” — pointing to a poll they commissioned that found, “59 percent of West Virginia voters want Senator Joe Manchin to confirm President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee” and “57 percent of West Virginia voters believe abortion policy for West Virginia should be decided by the people of West Virginia through their elected officials, not the Supreme Court.”

“There are other senators like senator Manchin, of course the confirmation vote is going to be in the Senate so we need senators to vote for Kavanaugh,” Liebel said. “We’ve been going to other states with some democratic senators that we know are prolife or have flip-flopped on the issue back and forth, we want to see if we can’t encourage them to vote to confirm.”

The organization also has held events and canvassing in Missouri, Indiana and Florida, among others, where Liebel said “the votes are critical.” They hope to not only get Kavanaugh in office, but are looking forward to November, when midterm elections will determine who holds Manchin’s seat.


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