Shouting into a megaphone while on a park bench in downtown Juneau on Wednesday, Alaska Planned Parenthood legislative liaison Alyson Currey had a message she hoped Sen. Lisa Murkowski would hear.
The megaphone’s sound waves weren’t audible in Washington, D.C., but Currey hoped her message will travel far.
Abortion rights in Alaska are on the line, she said. Murkowski and a thin group of Republican senators friendly to abortion rights may be the only thing standing in the way of a U.S. Supreme Court that could limit access to abortion.
That remains to be seen, but Currey and others aren’t taking chances.
About 40 people attended a “Stop Kavanaugh Speakout” Wednesday at the Dimond Courthouse Plaza. Currey put the situation in stark terms: If Murkowski and others don’t vote against the confirmation of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, access to reproductive health care will suffer dramatically.
“This president has promised to appoint only biased judges who will overturn Roe v. Wade and strike down the Affordable Care Act. Unless the Senate intervenes, Brett Kavanaugh will swing the balance of the court against our constitutional right to access safe abortion in this country,” Currey said.
Senate confirmation hearings are due to start Sept. 4 and could last between three and four days. The vote for Kavanaugh’s confirmation may happen as early as mid-September.
Republicans hold a 51-49 majority in the chamber, which must vote to confirm Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court seat vacated by retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. (Ties are broken by Vice President Mike Pence.) Murkowski is one of three undecided Republican senators who political watchers think could vote against their party.
Alaska’s senior senator, Murkowski supports abortion rights and hasn’t publicly come out for or against Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
On Wednesday, Currey introduced a group of speakers. Each hoped to sway the public against Kavenaugh’s confirmation — hoping they, in turn, will lobby Murkowski.
Speaker Amanda Compton said she’s not necessarily a passionate activist for abortion rights, but felt it was important to share her story. Compton received an abortion at age 23. She said she wasn’t prepared then to properly care for a child.
It’s not something she grieves or feels guilty for. It was simply a matter of bodily autonomy that she feels is a human right.
“I’ve lived in this state for almost 40 years, and if I know anything about our residents, it’s how fiercely we value our independence and autonomy. But the independence of some of us is being threatened, and we’re getting the message that one very private decision might be made for us,” Compton said. “I’m hear because I’m angry, and I am very, very frightened.”
Local woman Nancy Courtney, former chair of the Tongass Democrats, said she opposes Kavanaugh’s appointment for different reasons: She fears that he might make judicial decisions that could be used to strike down access to health care provided by the Affordable Care Act.
The ACA saved her stepdaughter’s life, she said, allowing her to stay on her parent’s insurance and receive care for a drug addiction. She believes it may have been considered a pre-existing condition without the ACA.
Five bouts in rehab have stuck. Courtney’s stepdaughter has been clean for four years.
“Without the ACA today, we might be bankrupt and our daughter might be dead,” she said. “Today I’m proud to say the ACA changed my family and we have to fight against this.”
Speaker Tasha Elizarde, the youngest speaker at age 19 (and an occasional contributor to the Juneau Empire), has volunteered for Planned Parenthood and said she has learned most of what she knows about reproductive health from the nonprofit.
She said her generation will have to deal the longest with decisions Kavanaugh makes on the court. Supreme Court justices sit on the court for life.
“It’s extremely frightening to hear that we don’t have someone being considered for SCOTUS who respects someone’s ability to make their own choices. That stands against what we believe as a country,” Elizarde said.
Assembly member Jesse Kiehl attended and Rep. Sam Kito III spoke as well. Outgoing Rep. Justin Parish (D-Juneau) also briefly attended before leaving.
• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.