Sen. Susan Collins voted with her Republican colleagues in the Senate on Monday to block a bill introduced by Democrats that would have essentially codified reproductive rights ahead of predictions that the conservative U.S. Supreme Court will dismantle access to abortion.
“Everyone deserves access to safe, legal abortion free of political interference and unnecessary barriers. Maine has protected the right to safe, legal abortion since the Reproductive Privacy Act passed with strong bipartisan support in 1994,” Nicole Clegg of Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England said in a statement. “If Sen. Collins supports codifying Roe like she claims, she should have joined her colleagues in voting ‘yes’ in a historic moment.”
Last year, the U.S. House passed the Women’s Health Protection Act with the support of Maine Reps. Chellie Pingree and Congressman Jared Golden, both Democrats.
The bill would have barred states from passing laws restricting abortion before a fetus is viable outside the womb, or about 24 weeks, and in cases when the patient’s life or health is at risk.
The bill would also curtail GOP efforts to enact roadblocks to abortion access on the state level by prohibiting policies such as waiting periods, ultrasound requirements or demands that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
The court’s 6-3 conservative majority is expected to issue rulings in the coming months that could overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a legal right to abortion up to 24 weeks.
The court will be ruling on a Mississippi law that would prohibit abortion at 15 weeks and a reviewing a lower court decision that allowed Texas to keep in place its ban on the procedure once fetal cardiac activity is detected, often at about six weeks.
A procedural vote to start debate on the Women’s Health Protection Act in the Senate fell largely along party lines, 46 to 48, failing to gain the 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster.
Maine Independent Sen. Angus King joined Democrats to support the bill.
Collins and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, both Republicans who have claimed to support abortions rights in the past, introduced their own more narrow legislation on Monday to counter the Democrats’ bill.
Collins and Murkowski’s measure would prohibit states from imposing an “undue burden” to the right to abortion before fetal viability, which is generally considered to be around 23 weeks into a pregnancy. Their bill would allow states to restrict abortion after that as well as protect health care providers who do not want to provide abortions for moral or religious reasons.
Collins and Murkowski’s bill is also unlikely to win enough Republicans to beat the 60-vote filibuster.
Women’s reproductive rights advocates in Maine said Collins’ counter proposal is insufficient.
“We often say that Roe is the floor, not the ceiling, meaning that abortion must be legal but also accessible, affordable, and supported. This is how we ensure every person can get abortion care where they need it from trusted providers in their community,” Clegg said. “Simply codifying Roe as Senator Collins is suggesting isn’t enough. Under Roe, we have seen states pass laws making abortion completely inaccessible. A right in name only isn’t a right and the American people deserve more.”
Collins’ vote on Monday was seen by advocates as another betrayal after the purported pro-choice Republican was a pivotal vote in the 2018 to confirmation of conservation Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the bench. At the time, Collins said that, despite evidence to the contrary, Kavanaugh viewed Roe as “settled law.”
Photo: Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Mitt Romney | Kevin Dietsch, Getty