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Protesters march to Justice Brett Kavanaugh's house

Lacie Wooten-Holway walks with other activists to protest outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh in Chevy Chase, Maryland on May 7, 2022. (Photo: Craig Hudson for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Senate Dems Won't Protect Abortion Rights, But Vote Unanimously to Protect Justices From Protests

"It's remarkable how quickly the Senate has acted to protect the privacy and safety of five justices," said one critic. "It's something senators are unwilling to do for millions of women."

Julia Conley

Progressives are intensifying calls for the U.S. Congress to pass legislation codifying Roe v. Wade into federal law to counter Republicans' plan to overturn the landmark abortion rights ruling, but on Monday evening Senate Democrats' attention was on a bill aimed at protecting the U.S. Supreme Court justices' family members from protests like those held over the weekend.

"One problem with the idea that Democrats will benefit from a backlash to Roe being overturned is that the party leadership don’t seem to like the idea of there being a backlash to Roe being overturned."

There were no reports of violence at pro-choice protests held outside the homes of right-wing Justices Brett Kavanaugh and John Roberts over the weekend, but Republicans including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.)—who was photographed raising his fist in support of the January 6, 2021 insurrection—compared the gatherings of around 100 people to sites of "mob violence" and demanded that Democrats condemn the protesters.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki obliged Monday, saying President Joe Biden strongly believes that protests should "never include violence, threats, or vandalism"—suggesting that the demonstrators, including Kavanaugh's neighbors, who chanted pro-choice slogans and carried signs, had posed a threat to the justices' safety.

The legislation that was passed unanimously later that day in the Senate would ensure that the family members of Supreme Court justices are afforded the same level of protection as senators' families.

"It's remarkable how quickly the Senate has acted to protect the privacy and safety of five justices," tweeted journalist Judd Legum. "It's something senators are unwilling to do for millions of women."

The bill passed Monday and sent to the House was co-sponsored by Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) and introduced shortly after a draft opinion was leaked last week showing that the high court's right-wing majority voted earlier this year to overturn Roe v. Wade—despite the fact that 64% of Americans favor keeping the ruling in place.

Progressives including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have expressed fury over the draft opinion and have demanded that the Senate pass the Women's Health Protection Act (WHPA), which would affirm that healthcare professionals have the right to provide abortion care and that pregnant Americans have the right to obtain abortions.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is planning to hold a vote on the WHPA this week, but the measure is expected to fail in the Senate due to the legislative filibuster, which requires 60 votes, unless right-wing Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia end their opposition to filibuster reform.

Warren said last week that it is "long past time" to pass the WHPA and warned, "We can't let the filibuster stand in our way."

While the Supreme Court is poised to roll back reproductive rights for 166 million women, said progressive journalist David Sirota, "the Senate's response was to give the justices and their families more royal guards."

Adam Serwer of The Atlantic noted that while Democrats have said in recent days that a backlash against the impending Supreme Court ruling will secure victories for the party in the midterm elections, the unanimous vote on Monday suggests "the party leadership don't seem to like the idea of there being a backlash."

Max Berger of pro-labor rights media organization More Perfect Union tweeted that protests held at Supreme Court justices' homes are "a legitimate outlet for the majority to express anger with an increasingly antidemocratic political system."

While voting to protect justices from such protests, Berger wrote, "the Senate can't defend a right supported by 70%" of Americans.

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