Collins under fire for saying Kavanaugh would support Roe v. Wade

By: - September 10, 2021 12:03 pm

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh meeting with Maine Sen. Susan Collins (Photo by Getty Images).

Sen. Susan Collins is under fire after the Supreme Court justice she repeatedly argued would respect precedent set by Roe v. Wade cast a decisive vote allowing a near-ban on abortions in Texas to go into effect.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined other conservative judges in a 5-4 decision that allowed the Texas law — the strictest restriction on abortion in the country — to move forward. Chief Justice John Roberts and the liberal bloc on the court issued dissenting opinions.

Kavanaugh was famously confirmed to the court by a razor-thin margin in 2018, with Collins casting a pivotal vote in his favor despite advocates expressing fears about what his confirmation could mean for abortion rights and arguments that someone accused of sexual assault shouldn’t be a Supreme Court justice.

While the court’s decision does not itself overturn Roe — and justices have not yet ruled on the overall constitutionality of the Texas law — pro-choice advocates said the decision signals that abortion rights are increasingly at risk. The high court is set to soon hear a direct challenge to Roe when it considers restrictions to the right to choose passed in Mississippi.

“This is a de facto overturning of Roe before the Supreme Court has time to hear the Mississippi case,” Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson said of the court’s decision on the Texas case.

‘Astoundingly wrong’ 

In defending her decision to vote for Kavanaugh in 2018, Collins — who says she is a pro-choice Republican — claimed in a lengthy floor speech that the judge would respect precedent allowing abortions in the U.S.

After Kavanaugh’s vote on the Texas law, that belief, in the words of one headline, turned out to be “astoundingly wrong.”

Collins also drew criticism from advocates in Maine.

“These are Susan Collins’ judges and therefore her legacy,” said Marie Follayttar, director of Mainers for Accountable Leadership, referring to Collins’ recent votes for Kavanaugh and Justice Neil Gorsuch, who also declined to block the Texas law.

230 Maine attorneys wrote her that ‘if Judge Kavanaugh is seated on the Supreme Court he is likely to cast the fifth vote, making a majority, to erode or eliminate federal protections for a woman’s right to choose.’ 102 Maine attorneys warned her that Gorsuch was nominated because Trump ‘pledged to only choose pro-life judges.’ She refused to listen to their extensive legal expertise,” Follayttar added, pointing out that the Maine Republican has also voted for anti-choice federal court judges despite her purported pro-choice views.

Suit Up Maine, a statewide grassroots progressive group, also weighed in.

“So much for Kavanaugh honoring precedent, eh, @SenatorCollins?” the group tweeted. “And since you’ve refused to co-sponsor the #WomensHealthProtectionAct, which would protect abortion rights nationwide, so much for you being pro-choice.”

Maine’s other senator, Angus King, is a co-sponsor of that bill but Collins is not.

Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau’s reaction to the court’s decision cited Collins as well.

“Absolutely horrible. @SenatorCollins, will you condemn the failure of the #SCOTUS to block this clear infraction of the Roe v. Wade decision?” he said.

Late Thursday, Collins issued a statement, calling the Texas law “extreme and harmful.”

“I oppose the Court’s decision to allow the law to remain in effect for now while these underlying constitutional and procedural questions are litigated,” she said.

Texas law condemned by Maine politicians, advocates

After the court’s decision, opponents of the measure argued that the Texas law — which bars abortions after six weeks, including for those pregnant by rape or incest, and also allows private individuals to bring lawsuits against anyone who provides or “aids and abets” an abortion — has frightening implications on the right to choose nationwide.

In a statement posted to Twitter, Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, called the court’s decision on the measure “a dog whistle to extremists that they can and should push forward their anti-choice agenda in state houses across the country.”

“Here in Maine, you can be damn sure that as long as I am governor I will stand strong to protect the rights of women and that I will fight every and any threat to undermine, roll back, or outright eliminate access to reproductive health care services,” Mills said.

King also blasted the law, calling it “blatantly unconstitutional” while U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree stated that the measure “violates the rights of millions and sets a dangerous example for the future.”

In addition, the law drew a rebuke from President Joe Biden, who described the court’s decision as “an unprecedented assault on constitutional rights.”

Given that assault, advocates are urging Biden and members of Congress to take action to protect against the erosion of basic freedoms in the U.S.

“It’s incumbent on the Biden administration and Democratic leadership to expand the court, abolish the filibuster, and protect our right to an abortion,” Follayttar told Common Dreams. “Anything less is unacceptable.”

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Evan Popp
Evan Popp

Evan Popp studied journalism at Ithaca College and interned at the Progressive magazine, ThinkProgress and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He then worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper before joining Beacon. Evan can be reached at evan(at)