‘I feel wonderful’: Abortion foes at convention cheer another Trump high court pick

Judy Budde saw Donald Trump as the lesser of two evils.

But that was back during the 2016 election, when people thought about how picking Trump could change the course of the U.S. Supreme Court and American history. Now, he’s the president, he has the 78-year-old Budde's support, and she’s getting exactly what she wanted by choosing him.

As National Right to Life, the nation’s largest anti-abortion organization, began holding its annual convention Thursday in Overland Park, there was a feeling of happiness among those filling the convention center.

With Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announcing his retirement Wednesday, attendees were hopeful that Trump’s next pick will help overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that recognized a woman's right to an abortion.

“I feel wonderful that he is going to get a chance to appoint someone new,” said Budde, of Kansas City. “”And we hope we can get all this stuff reversed.”

That hope was echoed by many in the anti-abortion movement Thursday, where people ranging from Arizona to Boston to suburban Kansas City spent the first of the three days at the convention.

While abortion opponents rejoiced, abortion-rights advocates were preparing to fight.

Access to safe and legal abortion has long been under attack, said Brandon J. Hill, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, and “anti-abortion activists haven’t been shy about declaring this their chance to make it illegal in the U.S. to access abortion.”

“Our supporters in Kansas will be fighting like hell and demanding that their senators reject any Supreme Court nominee that opposes Roe v. Wade and the right to safe, legal abortion,” Hill said in a statement.

Abortion opponents expect "a big battle," said Right to Life conference attendee Brendan O’Connell, president of Life Matters TV and Media Inc. in Boston.

He said he hopes a social conservative who believes in natural law will replace Kennedy.

Trump’s a wild card, O'Connell said. And reversing Roe v. Wade, however difficult, could return the issue to the states. The Supreme Court shakeup comes just months ahead of a pivotal 2018 general election, with control of the House and Senate in play.

To Phoenix attorney John Jakubczyk, the Ronald Reagan-appointed Kennedy “went AWOL” and was a major disappointment.

“Obviously this is going to be a fight; it’s going to be a knockdown drag-out,” Jakubczyk said of replacing Kennedy.

The younger generation of anti-abortion activists, like Colleen Haupt, acknowledged that it will be a struggle to add another justice who supports the movement given the GOP’s narrow majority in the U.S. Senate, where the candidate will need to be confirmed.

Haupt, a 21-year-old senior at Christendom College in Front Royal, Va., voted for Trump in 2016. Getting good justices, she said, “will justify a lot of people who were on the edge about voting for Trump.”

“I think it will help reaffirm their decision,” she said.