I can’t remember a time when my friends and family did not support Sen. Susan Collins, and many of us can hardly remember Maine without her as one of its U.S. senators. For 20 years, Mainers have roundly respected and trusted her ability to defend our values in Washington, D.C.
Today, it is difficult to muster that same support. We were confident that Collins would follow through with her pro-choice beliefs and defend us against an administration hostile to women’s health. It is clear she has failed to deliver for Mainers.
I volunteer at Mabel Wadsworth Center in Bangor and serve on its board of directors. Founded in 1984, the center is the only private, not-for-profit, independent gender-inclusive health center in Maine. Mabel Wadsworth serves anyone who walks through the door regardless of their background or access to resources. We offer all aspects of reproductive and sexual health care, including abortion, prenatal care, STI testing and gender affirming hormone therapy.
In 2018, women should not have to deal with judges and politicians who want to stand between us and our agency to our own bodies. Reverting to a time when women had no say over their bodies may seem unfathomable, but it remains a very real prospect.
President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, is staunchly against reproductive rights. He recently tried to force a detained immigrant minor to carry her pregnancy against her will. He went out of his way to praise former Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist for dissenting in Roe v. Wade, saying it was wrongly decided. Kavanaugh poses a real threat to the years of progress we’ve made in women’s health.
Collins represents a swing vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination that could shape reproductive rights for generations to come. I know our seemingly pro-choice senator understands what is at stake.
But I don’t have a lot of confidence in Collins. The lower-court judges who Collins has helped confirm have been openly hostile to women’s health, and those votes show us that she is not the “pro-choice” woman she campaigned as.
Maine does not need a senator who rubber-stamps anti-choice judges. We also don’t need a senator who says all the rights things and then does something else. We need a senator who stands up for her convictions.
Collins says she wants the Supreme Court nominee to respect “precedent.” She said the same thing about the three previous anti-choice justices she voted to confirm, and each one has voted repeatedly to reverse precedent, and each has repeatedly voted to chip away at choice.
Collins also says she will base her decision on a private conversation with the nominee. But President Donald Trump has already had his own private conversations, and so have the hardline anti-choice activists who gave Trump a pre-approved list of people they could count on to reverse Roe.
Trump has said openly he would only appoint judges who will repeal Roe v. Wade. He also has said that “there needs to be some kind of punishment” for women who have abortions. Given this disconnect, I take the public speeches of the president and his nominee over a private conversation with Collins, wherein she is delivered a carefully parsed answer.
Mainers trusted Collins was pro-choice, even when she gave us reason to doubt it. But we’ve seen her true colors, and they are inconsistent with the pro-choice woman we voted for and long supported.
I urge Mainers to call Collins and express their concern because attacks on women’s health are antithetical to the values we hold in this state. There is too much at stake to stay silent.
Collins still has the opportunity to be on the right side of history and women’s health, but there is a bottom line. If she votes to confirm a Supreme Court justice who will gut and repeal my agency over my own body, she is not pro-choice, and I will remember.
Aislinn Canarr is a volunteer at the Mabel Wadsworth Center in Bangor. She lives in Winterport.
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