A rift may be developing in our state’s tiny anti-abortion movement, which already is vastly outnumbered and vastly outresourced in its campaign against the reproductive rights amendment known as Article 22. The last thing they need is an internal dispute.
On Saturday the Vermont Daily Chronicle posted a written exchange between far-right activist Jim Sexton and Mary Beerworth, longtime leader of the Vermont Right to Life Committee. In his letter, Sexton upbraided Beerworth for endorsing Christina Nolan for U.S. Senate over the thoroughly anti-abortion Gerald Malloy, and for making a donation to the Nolan campaign. He called on Beerworth to either “come out Publicly and disassociate from Ms. Nolan and her campaign, or to resign from VT Right to Life.”
Beerworth replied that she made the endorsement because Nolan is (1) staunchly opposed to Article 22 and (2) the only Republican with a chance of beating “100% pro-abortion and 100% pro-Article 22, Peter Welch (D)” in November.
It’s a rare moment of pragmatism from an activist known for her doggedness in fronting lost causes. And it comes at a time when pragmatism is a dirty word for many on the right.
As befits a politician aspiring to the image of moderate Republicanism, U.S. Senate candidate Christina Nolan has given a carefully circumscribed statement of support for abortion rights.
And it’s as worthless as a bank note from the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.
I’m not accusing her of lying. Although a look at her background might suggest otherwise. She was raised in a devout Catholic family; she attended Rice Memorial High School; her grandparents were publicly anti-abortion; and one of her aunts is Mary Beerworth, the longtime head and public face of Vermont Right to Life. None of those facts can be found in any of her campaign literature, because of course they can’t.
But hey, for all I know she might be the family outcast, what with her “alternative lifestyle” and all.
Whether she’s welcome at holiday dinners or not, she opposes Proposition 5, the amendment that would enshrine reproductive freedom in Vermont’s Constitution, using language and reasoning borrowed from the anti-abortion crowd. They realize that direct opposition is a nonstarter in Vermont, so instead they raise bogus concerns about Prop 5 being overly broad, subject to misinterpretation, and potentially allowing abortion right up to the moment of birth. Nolan reportedly views Prop 5 as “extreme” but shies away from specifics. When asked where she would draw the line, all she can offer is “Vermonters need to have this conversation.”
That’s one level of uselessness. The other is the potential consequences of her entirely hypothetical election to the U.S. Senate.
Two years ago, the Republican State Leadership Committee funneled $370,000 into Vermont, backing candidates in close races for the Vermont House. The VTGOP won several of those seats and took away the Democrats’ supermajority status.
So far this year, the RSLC has spent a lot less. But a handful of closer-to-home moneybags have taken matters into their own hands. They’ve donated more than $100,000 to individual Republican House candidates and House Minority Leader Don Turner’s political action committee.
In the small-dollar world of State House campaigns, that’s a huge amount of money.
First, a hat tip to Green Mountain Daily’s Sue Prent, who reported on the Franklin County iteration of this phenomenon a couple weeks ago. Turns out, it’s only part of a bigger pattern. But because the money is broadly dispersed, the pattern has attracted little attention.
Two of the donors are familiar names to anyone who follows Vermont politics. The other two might be new to you.