Brett Kavanaugh’s ascension to the U.S. Supreme Court is not inevitable. That was the overriding message made to hundreds of people at the latest installment of the #RiseUpforRoe tour stop in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.
The nationwide tour, a project created by Demand Justice Initiative, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, features panel discussions about Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Court. It features panels hosted by freelance writer and Teen Vogue contributor Lauren Duca, activist and writer Brittany Packnett, self-described professional feminist and radio host Jess McIntosh, and CNN contributor Symone Sanders, as well as a series of featured experts and reproductive health advocates. Wednesday night’s panel included discussions featuring with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), as well as NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue and Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, who detailed what’s at stake for the future of Roe v Wade with Kavanaugh’s nomination.
“The first lie is that we don’t know what Kavanaugh will do on Roe v Wade. The second lie is that we can’t stop him; we can stop him,” said McIntosh, during the evening’s programming. “Remember we’ve had some victories, we stopped the repeal of the Obamacare. We did that. And we did that without having either chamber of Congress or the White House, the exact scenario that we’re in now. And we did it by flooding the Senate phone lines.”
McIntosh’s reference to the grassroots push to stop the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) spoke to the evening’s focus on pushing back against the narrative that Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Court is inevitable. Both Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME), two Republicans in the U.S. Senate who contributed to the failure of repeal efforts, recently compared appeals from constituents during the Affordable Care Act (ACA) debate to what they are hearing now regarding Kavanaugh’s nomination. “A different level of intensity, a different level of intensity. What I was hearing at home were very personal stories,” Murkowski told the Washington Post in late July. “Literally people in tears. The level of just emotional outpouring that made it just—intense is the best word—is different than it is now.”
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The senator’s remarks suggest apathy among the general populace regarding the Kavanaugh nomination. But according to reproductive health advocates in attendance last night, that apathy is by design. “A veneer of inevitability has been the actual strategy that the people backing Kavanaugh have used,” said Laguens, in an interview with Rewire.News. “At every turn, that’s been their messaging and now we are countering that and saying, ‘No way.'”
Laguens went on to suggest that the truth runs contrary to that narrative. “What we’re seeing is an outpouring of people saying, ‘How do I fight back?’ Tell me who to call, where to call, where to be.’ This tour is also just helping people focus their energy towards these hearings,” she said.
During an on-stage interview, Gillibrand reiterated the need to fight back against Kavanaugh’s nomination. “This is the moment where you have to look at yourself in the mirror and say, ‘What will I do to make sure this man is not the next justice on the Supreme Court?’” she said. “If you fight as hard as you can imagine, it will work. We’ve seen this work before. We saw it by fighting against Trumpcare. It worked because people in all 50 states said, ‘No,’ and they fought back and told their personal stories.”
Later in the evening, Brittany, a patient advocate with Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington who didn’t provide her last name, told her own personal abortion story and implored audience members to make personal appeals to senators in opposition to Kavanaugh.
“There is a stigma to [sharing abortion stories], that’s why you don’t hear many stories and that’s why you have to be careful when telling your story,” she said in an interview with Rewire.News after the event. “Those personal stories and testimonials hit home [with lawmakers]. Everybody has a friend or somebody that has some type of story that they can relate to. And also it drives empathy, I think when you hear those stories you have to hear the impact and get a different perspective.”