November 17, 2018
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If Susan Collins is truly pro-choice, she should keep Kavanaugh off the Supreme Court

George Danby | BDN
George Danby | BDN

I grew up in northern Maine and have lived in Maine for most of my life. As a registered nurse and the mayor of Belfast, I strive to serve the people of my city to the utmost of my abilities in both my private and public life. However, I am concerned for the future of my patients and constituents.

The very people who elected me their mayor and entrust me with the governance of our city are the same patients I care for daily in my work at the local hospital. During my overnight shifts, I have heard from people who feel powerless in stopping Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court.

But they are not powerless, and neither is Sen. Susan Collins.

During the 2016 campaign, President Donald Trump promised to appoint justices to the Supreme Court who would “automatically” overturn Roe v. Wade, a pivotal decision that for 45 years has guaranteed women’s fundamental right to make decisions about their own lives and bodies.

Kavanaugh’s nomination to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy comes at a pivotal moment when the balance of the court, and therefore many of the issues we care most about — women’s rights, worker’s right, climate change — are at risk.

Despite telling Collins earlier this month that Roe is “ settled law,” Kavanaugh has shown us where he stands on abortion, and we should be worried about how he will turn the balance of the court against access to abortion.

Just last year, in a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Kavanaugh as part of a divided three-judge panel overrode a lower court order that the Trump administration allow a detained young immigrant woman to get an abortion. This was despite the fact she had complied with all of the legal and logistical hurdles to obtain an abortion in Texas, including going before a judge and proving she was mature enough to make the decision. When Kavanaugh’s colleagues on the full court overruled the panel decision, he dissented, showing just how out of the mainstream his views are on abortion.

If Kavanaugh joins the Supreme Court, there are four other justices — Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch — who stand ready to form a consistent anti-abortion majority.

I was troubled to hear Collins praise her meeting with Kavanaugh as “excellent.” Kavanaugh could be the deciding vote to overturn Roe. And even without overturning the decision, he will have the opportunity to restrict access so severely it could render the right to abortion meaningless.

Since 2011, states have passed more than 400 restrictions on abortion access. These restrictions are often medically unnecessary and provide no benefit to the health of the patient.

Here in Maine, a physician-only law blocks nurse practitioners and certified midwives from performing abortions. A recent National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine study found that nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwives can safely provide abortion. As a result of this law — which the ACLU, ACLU of Maine and Planned Parenthood Federation of America are challenging — access to abortion services is restricted to three clinics, but that number could increase to 18 if the law is struck down.

This is one of a number of cases about abortion restrictions working their way through the lower courts. In fact, 13 cases are one step away from the Supreme Court. If these cases make their way up to the Supreme Court, it could provide Kavanaugh and the anti-abortion justices with the opportunity to severely curtail abortion access.

Collins has said that she would oppose a nominee who “ demonstrates hostility” to Roe — Kavanaugh has done just that. In a keynote address in September 2017, just two months before he was added to Trump’s short list of potential nominees, Kavanaugh praised former Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s dissent in Roe. Collins might not think Kavanaugh will go so far as to overturn Roe, but he could completely gut it, making it a right in name only. If Collins is truly pro-choice, this should give her pause.

Samantha Paradis is the mayor of Belfast.

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