Sen. Susan Collins said Wednesday she’s confident that the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold Roe v. Wade if legal battles over new state laws to limit abortion rights make it to the high court. Abortion rights advocates aren’t so sure, however, and accuse her of misleading Americans about the likelihood of abortion rights being restricted now that Justice Brett Kavanaugh sits on the court.
Several states this year have passed or moved toward passing some of the most restrictive abortion laws in decades, which anti-abortion advocates hope will serve as a vehicle for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Anti-Roe activists have been emboldened by the court’s more conservative tilt after Kavanaugh — whom Collins’ voted to confirm — tipped the court’s ideological makeup.
“Yes, it’s unconstitutional,” Alabama state House Rep. Terri Collins (R) said of the bill she introduced that would outlaw almost all abortions in the state. “All our pro-life bills are unconstitutional right now. That’s the goal.”
Collins told Beacon on Wednesday that she’s “very concerned” about the Alabama legislation, which was signed into law earlier this month. It represents a near total abortion ban, with exceptions for women whose health is at risk, but not for cases of rape and incest. The law would allow a doctor who performs an abortion to be charged with a felony.
The law “is so restrictive that it would virtually ban all abortions, including those pregnancies that resulted from rape and incest,” Collins said. “I cannot imagine that any court is going to uphold the constitutionality of the Alabama law.”
That includes the Supreme Court, she said.
When asked whether she’s confident that the justices would uphold Roe v. Wade (which would appear to directly conflict with the Alabama law), particularly now that Kavanaugh has joined the court, she replied, “Yes, I am.”
The Maine senator told WGME in an interview published earlier this week that she is “not sure exactly” why states were beginning to pass tougher abortion limits.
In addition to Alabama, seven other states have passed bills to limit abortions this year: Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, Utah and Arkansas. In most other states — including Maine — abortion is legal until the fetus reaches viability, the New York Times reported, usually at 24 to 28 weeks.
Ahead of Kavanaugh’s contentious confirmation vote last year, Collins — who labels herself pro-choice — said she and Kavanaugh had discussed abortion cases extensively and that he assured her that he regarded Roe as “settled law.”
Abortion-rights advocates were outraged earlier this year when Kavanaugh broke from his colleagues in an abortion case. The Supreme Court’s majority blocked a Louisiana law that would have restricted access to abortions in the state, but Kavanaugh argued the law should have gone into effect.
“Susan Collins seems to be conveniently forgetting that Brett Kavanaugh sent a clear warning of where he stands on Roe and precedent when he took it upon himself to dissent in the Louisiana case,” said NARAL national political director Nicole Brener-Schmitz.
“She also seems to be forgetting that Donald Trump’s number one promise to the anti-choice movement was to appoint judges who will work to undo Roe. Alabama’s law is blatantly unconstitutional, but there are several other cases that could gut or chip away at the rights enshrined in Roe. Susan Collins should stop gaslighting the millions of Americans who are watching this issue very closely and will be until 2020.”
Collins continues to back Trump’s anti-choice judicial picks
In addition to facing criticism for her vote for Kavanaugh, Collins has come under fire for voting to confirm a host of other Trump judicial appointees who have supported restrictions on abortion rights.
“When Donald Trump was running for President he promised to stack the courts with judges who would want to overturn Roe v. Wade,” said Amelia Penniman, spokeswoman for the progressive research PAC American Bridge. “When he got to the White House, he kept his promise, and Susan Collins has voted for the majority of his nominees. She’s lying when she says her support for anti-choice judges has nothing to do with Republicans’ intensified crusade against abortion rights. She’s just hoping women in Maine aren’t paying attention.”
In the latest round of Senate judicial votes on Wednesday, Collins sided with the GOP to confirm Stephen Clark to be U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Missouri.
Clark, who served on the Lawyers for Life board of directors, was grilled by Senate Democrats during his Senate confirmation hearing last summer.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) read from a speech Clark gave in 2016, when he said, “The court decided that a woman has a privacy right in her womb that trumps the privacy right of the state and life.” Hirono said she was also concerned about Clark’s past suggestion that lawyers use legal strategy to obstruct abortion providers, Courthouse News Service reported. Clark replied to Hirono that Roe is “good law and binding precedent.”
Also on Wednesday, Collins voted to confirm Kenneth Bell to be U.S. District Judge for the Western District of North Carolina. In 1995, Bell wrote a letter to the editor in the Charlotte Observer in which he criticized another article defending women’s reproductive rights. Bell attacked what he called the “twofold indefensibility of the abortion rights position,” according to follow-up questions sent to Bell by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Bell wrote in that letter: “Why is it a hard decision? Either the unborn is a mass of cells worthy of no more consideration than a hangnail, or it is a child, which may not be killed. There is no middle ground. Only if the mother knows it is a child rather than a hangnail is abortion a ‘hard decision.’”
Bell told senators last year that his letter “presumes and acknowledges that a woman’s decision whether to have an abortion is a difficult decision.” He added, “the Supreme Court has recognized a woman’s constitutional right to obtain an abortion. If confirmed, I would fully and faithfully apply that precedent.”
Collins voted against another Trump appointee on Wednesday — Howard Nielson, who was confirmed to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah. In 2016, Nielson submitted an amicus brief in the case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, in which he urged the Supreme Court to uphold a Texas law that restricted women’s access to abortions. The Supreme Court struck down the law as unconstitutional.
(Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)