In the wake of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement — and in light of Trump’s vow to replace him with someone who would overturn Roe v. Wade — all eyes are on Susan Collins, a Republican senator with pro-choice leanings who could help reject an anti-abortion nominee.
Since each Supreme Court justice needs 51 votes to be confirmed, Democrats would only need one Republican to side against the nominee, assuming no Democrats break rank. So it was reassuring to many pro-choicers when Collins insisted, in an interview with CNN this weekend, that she “would not support a nominee who demonstrated hostility to Roe v. Wade.”
However, as host Jake Tapper was quick to point out, Collins voted to confirm Neil Gorsuch, a Trump pick whose track record against women’s reproductive rights includes his recent decision to side with “crisis pregnancy centers,” which exist for the sole purpose of convincing women to carry pregnancies to term. Collins responded that she actually doesn’t think Gorsuch would vote to overturn Roe — a sentiment that prompted Mother Jones to wonder, “Is Susan Collins the most gullible person on the planet?”
Adding to the worries of those who support abortion access, Collins’s spokesman has previously said that the senator “does not apply ideological litmus tests to nominees” when asked whether she would take a nominee’s stance on Roe v. Wade into account. And the senator still has yet to explicitly say that a prospective justice’s hostility to Roe could sway her vote, per the New York Times.
In an attempt to remind Collins of how high the stakes are, women have started sending wire coat hangers to her office to serve as a visceral reminder of what happens when abortion becomes illegal.
On June 29, following the “ideological litmus test” comment, women on social media began posting screenshots showing orders they’d made to Collins’s office in the Senate building. The gesture has been described as “organic,” as there’s no official organized effort behind it.
Pro-choice advocates have long touted the coat hanger as a symbol of dangerous back-alley abortions. In 2016, Ohioans protested their state’s ultrastrict “heartbeat bill” by putting coat hangers along the statehouse fence; overseas, Poland has seen its strict abortion laws challenged with the #CoatHangerRebellion movement.
“I want to be clear that a vote for any of the proposed nominees on Trump’s list is a vote to overturn Roe v. Wade,” said Ezra Levin, co-founder of the protest group Indivisible. “Susan Collins cannot simultaneously say she supports Roe v. Wade and support anybody on that list; that would be quite hypocritical.”