That means pro-life groups have had a strong influence on the White House’s thinking about potential judicial appointments—including the names on Trump’s short list for Kennedy’s replacement. “There’s no daylight between the administration’s position and our own,” Dannenfelser said. “What I don’t worry about is being heard.”
For its part, SBA List is already thinking about the next step in the process: confirmation. The organization is focused on mobilizing local activists in states with more moderate U.S. senators, who will be crucial swing voters in the confirmation process ahead. A number of groups in Washington are working together to pool resources and collaborate strategically. But their model is already in place: These groups also pushed hard for the nomination and confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, the latest justice to join the Supreme Court. “We’ll do what we did with Gorsuch, but it will be a far more resourced fight, because it’s a far more consequential fight,” Dannenfelser said.
Other pro-life groups have focused on priming the legal landscape for the eventual court battle that could challenge Roe. Americans United for Life is one of several groups that offers model legislation on abortion: carefully crafted texts that help pro-life state legislators push the boundaries of legal abortion restrictions in their areas. This kind of legislation is designed “to protect women now, to save lives now, to have that immediate, on-the-ground effect,” Foster said. But it also has the advantage of queuing up court challenges and seeding cases that could eventually make their way to the Supreme Court. If that body eventually overturns Roe, their legislative work will have created a framework so that “there will be life-affirming state laws already in place,” Foster hopes.
Advocates on the other side of this issue are also focused on the confirmation process. Democratic senators from Kamala Harris to Chuck Schumer have called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to delay the hearings until after the midterm elections. This could partly be read as a form of revenge: McConnell successfully put off hearings on President Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, for nearly a year in the hopes of securing a Republican White House victory and a conservative alternative. But pro-choice advocates have also argued that any delay would be for the sake of democracy. “We want [the] American people to be an arbiter if any of [their] major civil rights are somehow going to be ended or diminished forever,” said Faiz Shakir, the national political director of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Shakir named five Republican senators who might be swing voters in a confirmation process, and who will probably be the target of a lot of ad spending and lobbying in the weeks to come: Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Dean Heller of Nevada, Jeff Flake of Arizona, and Rand Paul of Kentucky. Because Republicans hold only a slim majority in the Senate, party leaders can’t afford to lose even a single vote without imperiling a potential confirmation. Shakir said he is also focused on helping Americans understand the potential consequences of this vote on issues from LGBT rights to free speech—and, of course, abortion. “We should start envisioning and conceptualizing a world without Roe,” he said. Ultimately, “our objective, here at the ACLU and elsewhere across the movement, is to make this about the record, and to make this about the merit.”