My husband’s curious affection for Senator Susan Collins used to be a joke around our house. “My Susie,” he sometimes called her. But as we watch the Brett Kavanaugh nomination unfold, he’s finally coming round. Collins sure seems reasonable and pleasant on TV. She’s not a religious fanatic or a libertarian weirdo. She says she’s pro-choice. I like her scratchy voice and that scrunched-up way she smiles. But face it, she is not going to save us from a Justice Kavanaugh. (“Are you sure?” my husband interjects at this point. “You shouldn’t write your column as if you know.” OK, fine. Prove me wrong, Senator Collins!)
It’s not as though people haven’t tried to persuade the Maine Republican to vote against him. “There has been a huge campaign organized by the Maine Women’s Lobby,” writes a longtime friend in the state. “But my guess is that she just dismisses it as people who are Democrats, to whom she seems to pay no attention. Our previous Republican senators, Olympia Snowe and Bill Cohen, while conservative, at least responded to constituent mail.” The Hill reports that activists have sent Collins’s office more than 3,000 coat hangers to jog her memory about the terrible days of illegal abortion. Ady Barkan, a progressive activist who is dying of ALS, has started a campaign to raise money for whomever Collins’s opponent is in 2020; as I write, it’s reached over $1.1 million in pledges, to be activated if she votes to confirm. In a statement to conservative website Newsmax, Collins perplexingly denounced Barkan’s campaign as an effort to “bribe” her, even though nobody is offering to give her money for anything.
Collins claims she’s received personal assurances from Kavanaugh that he regards Roe v. Wade as “settled law.” But just a few days ago, a 2003 e-mail came to light in which Kavanaugh points out, correctly, that “settled law” might not be as settled as all that, “since [the] Court can always overrule its precedent, and three current Justices on the Court would do so.” None of this seems to have changed Collins’s mind.
I don’t understand why we’re even having this conversation about whether Kavanaugh would vote to overturn Roe. Here’s what we know: He has called birth control “abortion-inducing drugs.” That’s pure “pro-life” language based on the falsehood that the IUD and hormonal contraception, including the pill, prevent implantation (which the anti-choice movement equates with abortion). Based on that belief, Kavanaugh could easily apply to contraception whatever restrictions he applies to abortion. Then too, he dissented from a ruling permitting “Jane Doe,” a 17-year-old undocumented immigrant held in detention in Texas, to have an abortion. Doe had already fulfilled every legal requirement the state imposes on minors who lack parental consent. She had gotten a judicial bypass to prove she was mature enough to make the decision; she had a court-appointed guardian. Still, despite the fact that she was in the middle of her second trimester, Kavanaugh wanted her to wait in order to find a “sponsor” who would stand in lieu of her absent parents—even though the whole point of the judicial bypass is to exempt a teen from parental consent. So much for “settled law.”