If I were to tell you that, tomorrow, the House plans to vote on a bill that would codify Roe v. Wade, and that said bill might stand a chance in the Senate if some Republicans would give it their approval, do you think self-proclaimed abortion-rights advocate Susan Collins would get onboard? Given her outward statements that she “support[s] codifying Roe,” and all that? No, of course she wouldn’t. I regret to report that the Maine senator is back on her bullshit. This time, she says she will oppose the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would cement the landmark Supreme Court decision as federal law so that states like Texas could not engineer endless new ways to restrict abortion access.
Collins told reporters that the legislation on the table “goes way beyond” the codification goal by “severely” weakening protections for providers who do not offer abortion services for religious reasons. But the Women’s Health Protection Act does not mandate that every doctor must provide abortion services on demand; rather, it states that “a health-care provider has a statutory right under this Act to provide abortion services, and may provide abortion services” up until fetal viability, around 23 weeks into a pregnancy (and after, though only when continuing the pregnancy threatens the patient’s health or life).
The bulk of the bill’s text rebukes the myriad restrictions the religious right has devised over the years to winnow access: Under the WHPA, states could not make termination contingent upon the patient’s receipt of medically inaccurate information designed to dissuade them from going through with the procedure, for example, nor could states take clinics out of operation over the width of their hallways. When you have conservative lawmakers looking to torpedo Roe from any possible angle — see, again, Texas, which recently incentivized the public to pursue a cash bounty on anyone suspected of “aiding or abetting” abortion — it is important to be specific. Also, it bears noting that the Supreme Court is set to hear a case challenging Roe’s terms on December 1, and without federal protections, the decision could be devastating.
To Collins, however, the bill’s language occasionally borders on “extreme,” and she claims to be in talks with some of her colleagues to present a hypothetical alternative that “truly would codify Roe.” Unfortunately, the Women’s Health Protection Act will likely fail in the Senate without some Republican support, offering Collins the opportunity to do what she does best. Though she likes to tout herself as a moderate Republican — as well as the rare Republican who openly supports reproductive rights — she reliably falls in line when the time comes for action.
A pertinent example: Her statement, ahead of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, that an openly anti-abortion candidate “would not be acceptable,” followed a few months later by her vote to confirm Kavanaugh. Never mind that Trump (or maybe more accurately, the Federalist Society) picked him with a very specific agenda in mind; never mind that, in the weeks leading up to his confirmation, a number of women came forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Of Kavanaugh’s recent vote to allow Texas’s vigilante law to stand, Collins told the Los Angeles Times: “People ought to read what the decision actually said. It said there’s serious constitutional and procedural issues which clearly the court is going to take up. I think we need to wait and see what happens.” Of course she does.