in ,

Pro-Kavanaugh Councilman: ‘Better Get Your Coat Hangers Ready’

Parkersburg, W. Va., Councilman Eric Barber

A West Virginia city councilman seemed to insinuate that women should prepare to have dangerous back alley abortions in light of the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Better get you’re coathangers ready liberals,” (sic) Parkersburg City Councilman Eric Barber, an anti-abortion activist, wrote in a now-deleted Facebook comment to a private group after West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin – a Democrat – announced he would support Kavanaugh’s confirmation. The comment can still be seen thanks to screenshots shared by local residents.

Women’s rights groups fear Kavanaugh, a conservative justice whose nomination by President Trump was first approved by the right-wing, anti-abortion Federalist Society, could overturn Roe v. Wade – the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. Coat hangers are often cited as a tool that was used to induce unsafe abortions when women did not have access to legal abortions by licensed practicians.

Deep South Voice verified the veracity of the screenshots by speaking to multiple residents who saw and made screenshots of the comment.

‘Violent Words’

Eric Engle, a local activist, shared a screenshot of the comment and called Barber “the most worthless piece of human garbage I’ve ever encountered.”

A screenshot of a Facebook comment by Parkersburg Councilman Eric Barber.

“Eric Barber really posted this, yes he did,” wrote a resident of nearby Charleston, West Virginia who lists herself on Facebook as CorneliaBelle Calvert LeFevre. “He thought these words through and posted these violent words. Please understand, he is directing this little cowardly word spam toward WOMEN.You are the vilest of scum, Eric Barber.”

Photos and videos on Barber’s Facebook – now set to private – show him attending pro-Kavanaugh rallies. On one post, he claimed that a pro-choice protester recently threw a coat hanger at him at a Kavanaugh protest, but Deep South Voice could not verify that claim.

Barber Calls Himself Liberal ‘Head Hunter’

Voters first elected Barber in November 2016, when he ran as a Democrat. He left the party in 2017 and became an independent, accusing Wood County Democratic Party Chairman Daryl Cobranchi of “anti-Christian rhetoric” after Barber refused to a support a non-discrimination ordinance Cobranchi supported. The ordinance would’ve extended nondiscrimination protections to LGBT residents.

After his “coathangers” comment, residents posted screenshots of other comments Barber has made during his time as a city councilman. In one comment, posted on a video about a young boy who dresses in drag, Barber tagged one local gay rights advocate, writing that he “may be quick to defend this form of child exploitation because he may be one of the many gay men who enjoys watching pre-puberty boys compete in drag shows.”

In another screenshot, he referred to himself as a “head hunter” of “alt left liberals.”

In July, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sued the Parkersburg City Council for its practice of reciting Christian prayers at each meeting – a practice enforced by Barber:

Local plaintiffs include [Wood County Democratic Party Executive Committee Chairman] Daryl Cobranchi, who has frequently attended meetings and been directed to stand for the Lord’s prayer, a practice, he notes, which has made him conspicuous by his nonparticipation and which “assigns to second-class status anyone who is not Christian.” Likewise, Eric Engle, also a Parkersburg resident, follows city matters and has felt uncomfortable and pressured to participate in the Christian prayer during public meetings.

At least one member of the City Council has been openly hostile to nonparticipants, the legal complaint charges. Councilman Eric Barber glared at attendees who sat during the prayer at a meeting in September. At the end of that prayer, Barber positioned himself near his microphone, pressed the button, and shouted, “Amen.”

Neither the Parkersburg City Council nor Eric Barber returned a request for comment as of Sunday afternoon, but Stacy Nanette, a Mississippi resident who heard about Barber’s comment through social media, did get in contact with Bob Mercer, another Parkersburg City Councilman.

“We on Council are kept to a higher standard,” Mercer wrote, saying he’d spoken to Barber about the comment. “Understand that this statement does not reflect the feelings [of others on Council].”

On Oct. 7, Mercer sent Deep South Voice the following message in Barber’s defense:

“When he was in Washington DC this year the day Justice Kavanaugh was nominated a lady threw a coat hanger at him and hit him in the face for being happy about it,” Mercer wrote. “He admitted that he should have explained it instead of letting it sit there.”

Deep South Voice was unable to verify Barber and Mercer’s claim that a protester threw a coat hanger at Barber, and Barber did not respond to a request for comment to explain his “coat hanger” comment.

Special thanks to reader Stacy Nanette for bringing this story to our attention.

Editor’s Note

Dec. 10, 2019: A lot has happened since we first reported this story more than a year ago. In the wake of Kavanaugh’s confirmation, numerous state Legislatures across the country—including Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, and others—passed highly restrictive abortion laws, hoping to trigger a U.S. Supreme Court case. Among those were fetal “heartbeat” bans, like one in Mississippi that bans abortions once a fetus’ heartbeat becomes detectable, which typically happens around six weeks gestation.

Several of those cases are currently tied up in federal court, and appear likely to head to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has already agreed to hear a case involving Louisiana’s admitting privileges law that would likely shut down all but one abortion clinic in the state if allowed to take effect.

This story gained renewed traction on social media this week after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a lower court ruling to stand in Kentucky that upheld a law requiring women to undergo invasive transvaginal ultrasounds before having an abortion. Under that court-approved law, medical professionals will now be required to vaginally probe women, describe the ultrasound in detail and show them images of it, and force them to listen to the fetus’ heartbeat.

“This law is not only unconstitutional, but as leading medical experts and ethicists explained, deeply unethical,” said Alex Kolbi Molinas, a staff attorney at the ACLU. “We are extremely disappointed that the Supreme Court will allow this blatant violation of the First Amendment and fundamental medical ethics to stand.”