In this April 26, 2022, file photo, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, questions Attorney General Merrick Garland during a Senate committee hearing to at the Capitol in Washington. Credit: Greg Nash / AP

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said Tuesday morning that a leaked abortion decision contradicts what Supreme Court nominees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh told her about their views on the Roe v. Wade precedent.

The leaked draft decision, in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, written by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, would upend the nearly 50-year-old precedent on abortion rights in the United States. It’s an unprecedented leak from the high court, which some observers likened to the publication of the Pentagon papers. That’s likely to make abortion the top issue going to into the midterm elections at all levels.

News about the draft decision was first published by Politico on Monday evening. The court has verified the authenticity of the document while underscoring that it is not a final decision.

Abortion rights supporters raised alarm about the nominations of both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh because of their views on abortion, and Collins was heavily targeted as a potential swing vote because of her past stances on the subject.

At the time, Collins, who voted to confirm Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, said they assured her they respected precedent and would not allow their personal views to influence decisions they made on the bench.

“If this leaked draft opinion is the final decision and this reporting is accurate, it would be completely inconsistent with what Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh said in their hearings and in our meetings in my office. Obviously, we won’t know each Justice’s decision and reasoning until the Supreme Court officially announces its opinion in this case,” Collins said Tuesday morning.

The leak prompted renewed criticism of Collins for backing the two conservative justices, with Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau declaring Monday night that “torching #RoeVWade will be her legacy.”

At least 26 states are poised to ban or restrict access to abortion if the Supreme Court does overturn Roe v. Wade, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Maine Democratic Party Chair Drew Gattine made those stakes clear Tuesday morning, declaring that Democratic control of the Legislature and Blaine House is the only thing keeping abortion “safe and legal” in the state.

“Paul LePage and other anti-abortion Republicans on the ballot this November present the greatest threat to abortion rights in recent Maine history. We must re-elect Governor Mills and our Democratic majorities this November in order to protect the rights, safety, and future of not just Maine women but all Maine people,” he said.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, who has signed into law several bills expanding access to abortion services, pledged late Monday night to defend abortion rights. Maine Republicans have already said they will target those measures approved by Mills, especially if the Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade. 

“Well, I want to be very clear: unlike an apparent majority of the Supreme Court, I do not consider the rights of women to be dispensable. And I pledge that as long as I am Governor, I will fight with everything I have to protect reproductive rights and to preserve access to reproductive health care in the face of every and any threat to it — whether from politicians in Augusta or Supreme Court Justices in Washington,” she said.

Nicole Clegg, senior vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund, echoed Gattine on Tuesday, saying anti-abortion politicians could restrict or even ban abortion in Maine.

“At Planned Parenthood, we know that banning abortion does not take away people’s need to access abortion care. Patients who need to access abortion should not face the shame and overwhelming hurdles that will come from this decision. And we will do everything we can to help those patients get abortion care safely,“ Clegg said.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of the 1st District called the leaked decision “devastating.”

“But it is only a *draft* opinion and ABORTION REMAINS LEGAL in this country. We cannot go back to criminalizing women’s health care,” she said in a tweet.

U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, called the draft decision’s overturning of the Roe precedent a “dangerous” and “seismic” shift.

“A potential ruling that ends abortion protections would be appalling, but also firmly aligned with the clear long-term goals of conservative legal leaders; in fact, former President Trump explicitly stated he would only nominate justices who would ‘automatically’ overturn Roe. While we do not yet know the final ruling, Congress must be prepared to take legislative action to enshrine Roe into law,” King said Tuesday.