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Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court has given abortion rights opponents an opportunity that they have long hoped for to weaken or overturn Roe v. Wade. That's the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood is announcing a new strategy to protect abortion rights. NPR's Sarah McCammon reports.
SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: The Supreme Court can't just get up one morning and overturn Roe v. Wade. The justices would first have to take up a case that would give them a chance to reconsider that landmark decision. But abortion rights opponents hope that will happen soon. Penny Nance is CEO of the conservative group Concerned Women for America, which supported Kavanaugh.
PENNY NANCE: We're taking a moment here to rejoice in the fact that he was actually confirmed. And - but very quickly, even after the swearing-in, we were talking about starting to get together and think about, you know, the best cases to move forward to put in front of the court.
MCCAMMON: Several state laws severely restricting abortion are already making their way through the court system, including one from Iowa that would ban the procedure as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected, often before a woman knows she's pregnant. Kavanaugh is replacing Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was often the swing vote on abortion and other contentious issues. So advocates on both sides are watching to see how much the new court is willing to restrict abortion.
Planned Parenthood executive vice president Dawn Laguens says, in some ways, the last several years have been a training ground for what could be coming. She says many states have passed laws that force women to go to great lengths to get abortions.
DAWN LAGUENS: Already women across this country have to access funding. They have to access transportation. They have to access housing. They have to access support networks. That is going to be a greater need if there are further restrictions when Roe is attacked by this court.
MCCAMMON: Those efforts will now be supersized, Laguens says. She says Planned Parenthood will lobby state legislatures to strengthen protections for abortion rights and expand services in states with more liberal laws. Dr. Amy Whitaker is medical director at Planned Parenthood of Illinois. She's expecting to see more women coming from more restrictive states across the Midwest.
AMY WHITAKER: We know that we're going to need an iron-clad network of states and providers across the country where abortion will still be legal and accessible no matter what happens on the Supreme Court.
MCCAMMON: In the past two years, the organization has expanded surgical abortion services from two to five locations in Illinois. Nationwide, Planned Parenthood also will work to increase access to medication abortion and use technology to connect women with information about where they can get the procedure. Both sides are also preparing for the midterm elections next month. The abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America has launched a million-dollar ad buy telling supporters to vote out Republican candidates this November. This ad opens with an image of Kavanaugh's face.
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UNIDENTIFIED NARRATOR: Right now, women are under attack.
MCCAMMON: NARAL is also launching a separate campaign to educate suburban women in eight key cities around the country about the impending threats to Roe. For abortion rights opponents like Mallory Quigley of the Susan B. Anthony List, the Kavanaugh fight has also served as a reminder of the importance of elections.
MALLORY QUIGLEY: The Kavanaugh confirmation battle kind of exemplified why we've picked this to begin with, you know, why we've been engaging in Senate races across the country since last summer. And that's because, you know, precisely the Senate is where Supreme Court justices are confirmed.
MCCAMMON: With Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, advocates on both sides say their bases are energized and ready for the next phase of the battle over abortion rights. Sarah McCammon, NPR News.
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