- The Washington Times - Monday, May 9, 2022

The White House said Monday that President Biden believes in the right to protest but does not condone violence amid concerns that the firestorm over a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion on abortion will spiral out of control or pose threats to the justices and their families.

Mr. Biden “strongly believes in the Constitutional right to protest. But that should never include violence, threats, or vandalism. Judges perform an incredibly important function in our society, and they must be able to do their jobs without concern for their personal safety,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted Monday.

The leaked draft opinion written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. would overturn the right to abortion established in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and, if issued, shift responsibility for abortion laws to the states.

Mr. Biden faces twin pressures to support pro-choice allies in the wake of the leaked draft while hoping those outraged by the potential decision do not go too far as signs of raucous protest and vandalism begin to pour in.

“You’re seeing an outcry by the nearly two-thirds of the public — many of them peacefully protesting, many of whom are concerned about what this opinion will say,” Ms. Psaki said. “But you’re also seeing a number of Republicans in states, and some in Congress, double down on this potential to overturn a law that has been the law of the land for 50 years.”

The White House faced pressure during the last week to keep the backlash in check, with conservatives saying it needed to address potentially violent protests directly.

SEE ALSO: Activists target homes of Justices Roberts, Kavanaugh with noisy protests

Sacred Heart of Mary Church in Boulder, Colorado, was vandalized with pro-choice graffiti last week, while dozens of protesters demonstrated Saturday outside the homes of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.

The pro-life Wisconsin Family Action headquarters in Madison suffered fire damage early Sunday after a vandal threw a Molotov cocktail into the building. Pro-choice graffiti was spray-painted on the exterior.

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares on Monday decried vandalism at the Life First pregnancy resource center in Manassas, Virginia.

Slogans of “Fake Clinic,” “Liars” and “Abortion Is A Right” were sprayed on walls and doors at the group’s office building. Workers discovered the messages Monday morning.

“It’s unfortunate that this charity has been targeted,” Mr. Miyares told The Washington Times in a statement. “It is never acceptable to resort to intimidation, vandalism or destruction in our political discourse. This is what makes America so unique — we should embrace diversity of opinion and civil dialogue and debate.”

A source in Mr. Miyares’ office said he is monitoring the investigation “very closely.”

SEE ALSO: Wisconsin pro-life group’s office hit with Molotov cocktail, abortion-rights graffiti

Some legal scholars have suggested protesting at the justices’ homes could also present legal trouble for the activists.

Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, also an attorney, tweeted that they could be arrested for breaking state laws against picketing outside a residence and for attempting to obstruct justice.

“Why won’t Press Secretary Jen Psaki condemn protesting at a Justice’s private residence? After all, it is a crime!” Ms. McEnany tweeted.

Ms. Psaki said that, so far, there has not been violence or vandalism against Supreme Court justices.

“We have seen it at Catholic churches, that’s unacceptable. The president does not support that,” Ms. Psaki said. “We have seen it at some conservative organizations. We don’t support that.”

She said “we understand the passion, we understand the concern,” before repeating the president’s position that protests should be peaceful.

But controlling that passion among pro-choice advocates could prove a struggle. One Reddit user said the protests were payback for pro-life efforts over the decades to dissuade pregnant people from getting abortions and related services.

“When I was 16 and getting my first birth control at Planned Parenthood, a group of grown men yelled at me on my way in about how I was killing babies, so I think it is fine if Justice [Brett M.] Kavanaugh faces the same treatment outside his house right now,” the user wrote.

Mark A. Kellner, Valerie Richardson and Alex Swoyer contributed to this report.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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