Critics of Sen. Susan Collins’ vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as a U.S. Supreme Court justice are closely watching a case before the court that reproductive rights advocates fear could restrict access to abortion and weaken Roe v. Wade.

On Wednesday, the court listened to oral arguments in June Medical Services v. Russo, the first major abortion case to be heard since Kavanaugh and Justice Neil Gorsuch were seated after being nominated by President Trump.

The case out of Louisiana looks at whether a state law requiring physicians who perform abortions to have so-called “admitting privileges” at local hospitals should be upheld. Admitting privileges are agreements ensuring a patient will be admitted for medical care if, for example, an abortion results in complications.

Abortion rights advocates say serious complications from abortions are rare and the requirement puts an undue burden on clinics to provide an option that isn’t medically necessary, potentially forcing many clinics to close.

“It’s not that this case would ever (over)turn Roe,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a pro-abortion rights advocacy group. “This is a clinic closure case. It would decrease access for women to be able to act on the right to an abortion because they would not have clinics to go to. That creates terrible harm.”

The case already has sparked controversy, highlighted Wednesday by the rare rebuke Chief Justice John Roberts issued to Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, for comments he made directed at Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, saying they will “pay the price … if you go forward with these awful decisions,” The Associated Press reported.


Collins, a Republican who supports abortion rights and has defended her vote to confirm Kavanaugh, also has come under renewed scrutiny as the Louisiana case proceeds. A decision is expected this summer.

Elayne Richard of Fairfield, right, holds onto the hat of Sue Jones McPhee of Lisbon as they struggle to hold up a banner in the wind during a protest at Lobsterman’s Park in Portland on Wednesday. Both women were representing Grandmother’s for Reproductive Rights at the protest sparked by renewed scrutiny of Sen. Susan Collins’ backing of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

On Wednesday Collins’ campaign responded to a newly released ad by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the advocacy and political arm of the women’s healthcare provider, that targets the Republican for her vote to confirm Kavanaugh and links it to the court case.

“Susan Collins turned her back on Mainers and voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court,” it says. “She said our rights would be safe. But now, the Supreme Court could dismantle access to safe, legal abortion.”

A spokesperson for Collins campaign responded to the criticism Wednesday night.

“Just two years ago, Planned Parenthood Action Fund honored Senator Collins for being a longtime, outspoken champion for women’s reproductive health,” Krysta West said in an emailed statement. “Now it seems they’re singularly focused on partisan politics. Nevertheless, Senator Collins will continue to protect her constituents’ access to health care.”

The campaign did not respond to specific questions about whether Collins sees the case before the court as a potential threat to reproductive rights or her thoughts on Kavanaugh’s role in the decision.

Last year, when the court decided to stay the Louisiana law while it examined a similar case in Texas, Kavanaugh voted to allow it to go into effect. Roberts sided with the court’s more liberal justices to put a hold on it.

Collins, who is seeking re-election to a fifth term this fall, told CNN at the time of Kavanaugh’s dissent last year that she did not believe he would ultimately overturn Roe V. Wade.

“I have always been concerned about preserving Roe v. Wade,” Collins told CNN. “He said under oath many times, as well as to me personally many times, that he considers Roe to be ‘precedent upon precedent’ because it had been reaffirmed in the Casey v. Planned Parenthood case.”

That case in 1992 upheld the constitutional right to an abortion established in Roe V. Wade, but allowed states to put in place restrictions to protect the health of the mother and fetus.

Collins was a critical vote on Kavanaugh and her decision to confirm him sparked a backlash from liberal and Democratic groups, including vows the decision would be remembered during her re-election bid.

In January, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund endorsed Sara Gideon. The Maine speaker of the House is one of four Democrats who will face off in a June 9 primary for the right to challenge Collins for her seat in November.

Gideon also joined the group Wednesday to discuss reproductive rights and access to health care with a small group of women who have used the services of Planned Parenthood – including health care, mental health counseling, birth control and other services in addition to abortion.

“I think that all of us are very worried about what this means for Roe v. Wade and what this means for a person’s access to safe health care and a safe abortion,” Gideon said during the session at the Portland Public Library.

Gideon, who said she would not have supported Kavanaugh’s nomination to the court, said Wednesday she is concerned about his temperament and that he will not show respect for the precedent of Roe v. Wade in the case currently before the court.

She also noted Collins’ record in confirming more than 90 percent of Trump’s judicial nominees, including several who have been criticized for being unqualified or against abortion rights.

In her 23 years in Congress, Collins has taken more than 600 roll call votes on federal judicial appointments, including six Supreme Court nominees, all of whom she has voted to approve.

Changes to the nomination process have made it easier for controversial judges to go to a vote, though Collins said in January that her methodology for evaluating the judges hasn’t changed.

Her decision to support Kavanaugh, which she announced in a 40-minute speech on the Senate floor, attracted unprecedented attention as he faced allegations of sexual misconduct.

On Wednesday NARAL, the pro-abortion rights advocacy group, also led a small group to rally outside Collins’ Portland office in favor of reproductive rights, part of a push to spotlight Republican senators who voted for Kavanaugh and are up for re-election.

“Susan Collins, who has long billed herself as both pro-choice and a moderate in the Senate, cast the deciding vote – over massive protests in her home state – to put Brett Kavanaugh on the Court,” Hogue, the NARAL president, said in a statement. “If he proves, as we expect him to, to be hostile to abortion rights, she’s going to find herself even less in favor in a state where voters are really clear about their values.”

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