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Healthy and General

Outside Kavanaugh’s home, Lacie Wooten-Holway rallies for

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Lacie Wooten-Holway protests near the Chevy Chase home of her neighbor Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. (Craig Hudson for The Washington Post)
Lacie Wooten-Holway protests near the Chevy Chase home of her neighbor Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. (Craig Hudson for The Washington Post)

Lacie Wooten-Holway walked through Chevy Chase on Wednesday night, pausing to stick fliers on her fence, a tree and utility boxes. She was advertising an abortion rights protest here, in her neighborhood, in front of the home of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.

A passing couple paused, reading her sign: “HONK 4 REPRO Rights and Bodily Autonomy.”

“Good!” the woman said.

“That I don’t agree with,” the man interjected. “I think you vote, and you expand the court. You don’t go to a guy’s house.”

She had heard the argument before and responded: “I organize peaceful candlelit vigils in front of his house. … We’re about to get doomsday, so I’m not going to be civil to that man at all.”

For months, Wooten-Holway, a 39-year-old teaching assistant and aftercare staffer, mother of two and the youngest of five sisters, has taken the unusual step of protesting a neighbor.

Usually she is the only neighbor there — a reminder that with every march and chant she is breaking an unspoken contract of civility.

“We’re about to get doomsday, so I’m not going to be civil to that man at all.”

— Lacie Wooten-Holway

In Chevy Chase, just beyond the District line, geniality among neighbors has long been part of the social code. But Wooten-Holway — who has had an abortion and is a survivor of sexual assault — cannot separate the politics from the personal.

With the leak of a draft opinion indicating the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, ending the constitutional right to abortion, she says, the stakes are too high.

Neighbors tell her this kind of protest is disrespectful in a place they believe should be a private, family-friendly escape from bitter Washington politics.

Other people cheer, saying they wouldn’t personally join but are encouraged to see someone speaking out. She has invited her neighbors to join, posting in a local Facebook group where her messages publicizing the protests are often marked as read but go unanswered.

Activists and D.C. residents have shouted at political leaders in restaurants and even danced outside of lawmakers’ homes in early morning “wake-up calls,” but they often have a sense of anonymity and togetherness. Wooten-Holway has neither.

She has met Kavanaugh. They once coached middle school basketball in the same gym but for different teams. She has seen his wife, a town manager, at the grocery store.

Even if she and the Kavanaughs don’t know each other personally, she thinks it’s important for him to hear that people in his own neighborhood vehemently disagree with him.

She’s furious at the thought of a world without Roe — that a few mostly male justices are making that decision for millions of women, and that Kavanaugh, who has been accused of sexual assault, which he denied, could be one of them.

If the conservative justices are considering rolling back a precedent that protects what people choose to do with their own bodies, she says, then no home address is out of bounds.

A spokesperson for the Supreme Court did not respond to a request for comment.

Wooten-Holway is planning another protest on Saturday, the fifth she has organized on his street. The crowd size usually ranges from a handful of supporters and to a few dozen people, including activists, students and women who share their stories about why they chose to have an abortion.

At times, Wooten-Holway wonders whether these protests are worth what speaking out has already cost her and her family.

Like a majority of Americans who say the Supreme Court should uphold Roe, the couple passing Wooten-Holway on Wednesday night agreed with her underlying reason to protest. They knew Kavanaugh lived nearby, but they weren’t convinced of Wooten-Holway’s methods.

“I worry about lines being crossed,” the man said. “This constant escalation, I think, makes it dangerous.”

Most of the neighbors interviewed by The Washington Post declined to provide their full names, including this couple who were nervous about how speaking publicly about politics would affect their jobs.

Wooten-Holway moved on from the conversation with the couple, carrying a bag of red coat hangers and trying to stay committed to her work. But on this night, especially, she was exhausted — and alone.

‘Not ready to be a mom’

Wooten-Holway heard about a different protest outside Kavanaugh’s home in September and immediately wished she had been part of it. There had been so many times she wanted to do just that, but she always stopped herself.

The neighborhood was torn when Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court — a process that brought up sexual assault allegations, high school drinking and the culture of privilege afforded to the children of Washington’s elite. Wooten-Holway, like Kavanaugh, grew up among them.

Her protesting had been limited to posting on social media; putting signs up at her home about social, racial and reproductive justice; writing her views on her car windows; and marching at the Supreme Court or on the National Mall. She came from a family that cared about reproductive rights; one sister is a nurse practitioner at a Planned Parenthood facility, and another works as a midwife, she said.

Motivated by her personal experiences, she felt she needed to do more.

The first time she had an unplanned pregnancy she was 18 and in London. It was the summer ahead of her freshman year at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., and she saw the different paths unfold before her.

Her mom, a devout Catholic who believed life began at conception, understood why Wooten-Holway wanted to have an abortion but said she could not go with her to the doctor. She went alone.

“I would have been ill-equipped to be a parent,” Wooten-Holway said. “It was an easy choice, and it was a painful choice.”

On her 21st birthday, June 11, 2003, she realized she was pregnant again. She was living with her parents in Georgetown and considered what her life would look like with a child and her first serious boyfriend. That lasted about 30 seconds, she said: “I was not ready to be a mom.”

Two and a half weeks later, she took the abortion pills and stayed at her boyfriend’s apartment for the weekend.

When she became pregnant in 2005 with her first child, Patience, she felt different: She was choosing to be a mother. In 2015, she gave birth to her second child, Jack.

“I have these two great kids, and I am so lucky and I am so grateful for them, and I still don’t regret my decision,” Wooten-Holway said of her abortions.

As hundreds of women mobilized in the nation’s capital to protest Kavanaugh’s nomination to the court, Wooten-Holway marched with them.

Footage of Wooten-Holway in the crowd of people protesting appeared on CNN that day, her hands above her head holding a graphic sign of a caricature of Kavanaugh groping Lady Justice, one hand over her mouth, saying “Don’t Scream!”

Wooten-Holway’s activism drew attention to herself and her eldest, Patience, who was 12 years old at the time and uses they/them pronouns.

Classmates at Blessed Sacrament School ridiculed the family’s beliefs and bullied Patience, according to messages provided to The Post and corroborated in emails between Patience’s stepfather and school officials. Eventually, Wooten-Holway pulled Patience out of the school.

That backlash remained in her mind before she took the step of organizing a protest in their neighborhood.

At her first demonstration in October, eight people joined her.

On Wednesday night, Wooten-Holway crossed a nearby intersection and decided the ledge in front of her was the perfect spot for the red coat hangers.

She leaned about a dozen against a wooden fence, spacing them out and turning on the electronic candles to illuminate the display through the night. One woman smiled as she walked over. She saw Wooten-Holway’s sign, and said: “Honk honk!”

“We’ll be out on Saturday night,” Wooten-Holway told her. “We’re gonna walk over in front of his house, and then walk over to Justice Roberts’ ” house.

The woman, who did not want her name used, had lived in the neighborhood for 50 years and told Wooten-Holway she had mixed feelings about this. Several months ago while on a walk with a friend, the woman saw protesters heading toward Kavanaugh’s home and decided to join in, but, she admitted, “I didn’t really feel comfortable about it being in front of his house.”

“I totally understand and respect the idea that people do not wish to go to his house or that people are not ready to do that,” Wooten-Holway replied. “So I will do it for you.”

Wooten-Holway thought about the other protests she organized: after the justices heard arguments in December on the constitutionality of a Mississippi 15-week abortion ban; in January on the 49th anniversary of Roe; and again in March, during international women’s month. The crowds were small.

Four people joined her in December, among them, one other person who lived nearby, Erin Prangley, 52, who couldn’t shake the feeling that this wasn’t quite right.

She felt unsettled, standing on Kavanaugh’s street, protesting a man she knew from when their daughters played on the same basketball team. Prangley had protested Republicans and conservative policies before but never in this neighborhood.

After the leak of the draft opinion this week, she felt less conflicted.

“Rich women in the neighborhood he lives in aren’t going to have a problem with this decision. It’s the people who have less resources,” she said. “And that’s why it’s time for people of good conscience to cross that barrier and force him to look at us.”

In January, Wooten-Holway’s eldest, Patience, took the uncomfortable step of joining. First, Patience, now 16, temporarily blocked one of Kavanaugh’s daughters from their Instagram story, they said, so she would not have to see negative things about her father.

Wooten-Holway wishes more people would join her protests, despite the pushback. In January, a driver slowed his car upon seeing them on Chief Justice John Roberts’ street and yelled out his window: “I may agree with you, but leave the justice alone!”

“Rich women in the neighborhood he lives in aren’t going to have a problem with this decision. It’s the people who have less resources. And that’s why it’s time for people of good conscience to cross that barrier and force him to look at us.”

— Erin Prangley

In the past, a few of Wooten-Holway’s protests against Kavanaugh were mistakenly held in front of the wrong house. She wonders why no one on that street set her straight.

Neighbors had noticed them. Cars drove by and parked in nearby driveways. People slowed their pace while walking their dogs to get a closer look. Not once, she said, did someone tell her they were chanting in front of the wrong home.

“If that’s them protecting the Kavanaughs, then that’s really kind, and that’s what neighbors do, right?” Wooten-Holway said. “The difference is here he has people who will protect him. I don’t. And neither did my kid.”

Other neighbors on Wednesday night were also upset with Wooten-Holway’s choices. One woman, who declined to share her name, said she thought the protests were inappropriate, adding that her 7-year-old daughter started asking questions she didn’t want to answer just yet.

“She’s asking what abortion is. I just think that’s a little much,” said the neighbor. “I totally get the First Amendment, but I didn’t really want to explain this issue to my 7-year-old daughter.”

Wooten-Holway didn’t really engage with her — this wasn’t a neighbor she could recruit to her cause. She finished setting up the clothes hangers, grabbed her bag and headed to the nearby Brookville Market.

A corkboard by the entrance was full of fliers — for local political candidates, businesses for hauling, wellness and cleaning, and summer programs for girls. Wooten-Holway tried to find space to add hers, which read, “CANDLELIGHT VIGIL FOR ROE V. WADE.”

She thought more people would have come out to protest in all the months leading up to this moment. Now, she feared, a Roe reversal feels imminent.

As she grabbed an extra thumbtack and pressed it into the top corner of her flier, she wished for just one more neighbor to join her, thinking out loud: “I can’t be the only one, right?”