Voters in Maine are opening their newspapers to find an ad warning that Sen. Susan Collins could send 50,000 women to jail for seeking abortions, should she vote to confirm President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.
Alaskans are seeing the same stark ad in their papers targeting Sen. Lisa Murkowski — part of an advertising blitz by anti-Trump groups determined to block Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh from reaching the high court.
Ms. Collins and Ms. Murkowski are both pro-choice, and they are the two GOP senators considered undecided in the Kavanaugh vote. If both can be swayed to oppose his nomination, Democrats believe they have a chance to win the fight and deliver a stinging defeat to the president.
With the judge’s confirmation hearing done, the battle over his future has shifted to the states, where liberal and conservative groups want to make senators think long and hard before deciding how to vote.
“The reason we’re seeing so much activism around Kavanaugh, including media campaigns, is because he is one of the most troubling nominees in many years,” said Dan Goldberg, legal director from the Alliance for Justice.
The ad running in The Portland Press Herald puts the ramifications of the vote in stark terms: “Susan Collins‘ legacy: Total number of women jailed for seeking abortions passes 50,000 mark in 2032.”
“Brett Kavanaugh’s record demonstrates that he would be a sure-fire vote to end Roe v. Wade, criminalize abortion and punish women,” said Sasha Bruce, vice president at NARAL Pro Choice America, one of the groups behind the ad.
Another group in Maine says it has raised more than $1 million in pledged donations to back an opponent to Ms. Collins should she vote to confirm the judge.
Ms. Collins, though, called that the equivalent of an attempted bribe.
“This effort will not influence my vote at all,” she told Newsmax. “I think it demonstrates the new lows to which the judge’s opponents have stooped.”
Conservatives are running their own ads targeting a handful of Democrats in red states won by Mr. Trump in 2016 who are considered up for grabs in the Kavanaugh vote.
Top targets are Sens. Joe Manchin III in West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota and Joe Donnelly in Indiana.
All three broke with their party last year and voted to confirm Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, Mr. Trump’s first nominee to the high court, and the conservative groups’ message is it’s time to do that again.
“Red state Democrats like Sens. Manchin, Heitkamp, and Donnelly have a choice: vote yes on President Trump’s nominee or vote no and stand with Chuck Schumer and the left wing extremists in their party,” said Carrie Severino, chief counsel for the Judicial Crisis Network, whose group has spent roughly $2 million running ads in the three states.
The GOP candidates in those races also are attacking the senators.
In West Virginia, Republican Patrick Morrisey is running an ad saying Mr. Manchin wants a pro-choice Supreme Court justice.
“Manchin says he is pro-life, but seems to only want a pro-abortion Supreme Court justice. Does Manchin back abortion on demand up to the day of birth? Liberal lyin’ Joe has got to go,” the ad says.
Abortion has been a dominant theme for both sides.
The coalition behind the newspaper ads in Maine and Alaska says it decided to run them after the confirmation hearings, when Democrats highlighted an email the judge wrote during his time as a lawyer in the Bush White House.
In that email he questioned a colleague who had called the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision “settled law,” and said at least some Supreme Court justices would be willing to overturn it.
Democrats said that sounded like someone with an antipathy toward the landmark decision, and the advocacy groups then calculated how many women they believe would be put in jail for violating abortion laws, should Roe be overturned.
“Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski want their legacies to be as independent-minded moderates. But if they support Kavanaugh, their legacies will be jailing thousands of women,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, one of the organizations behind the ads.
The advocates say the 50,000 figure is a conservative estimate and is based off half of 1 percent of women who currently seek abortions.