For years, Sen. Susan Collins has brushed off concerns that her votes for Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh would help bring an end to legal abortion in the United States.

But she can’t brush them off any longer. A draft opinion leaked to the press Monday shows that Gorsuch and Kavanaugh are among five votes on the Supreme Court ready to overturn Roe v. Wade and allow state governments to decide when a woman should be forced to have a baby.

If Congress doesn’t act now, women in roughly half the states will lose the right to choose an abortion as soon as the final opinion is issued. A bill that would pre-empt the court, the Women’s Health Protection Act, has already passed the House, but until now could not overcome a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

If Collins is serious about her commitment to protecting women’s bodily autonomy, she will champion the bill’s passage in the Senate and vote to change the rules that require 60 votes for passage of most legislation.

Collins says she is a supporter of the filibuster, but she has voted to eliminate it before. Critically, she joined the narrow Republican majority in 2017 that eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. If she and two other Republican senators had balked at the rule change, three of the five justices in the apparent anti-Rowe majority, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, would not be on the court today.

But Collins voted to change the rules to allow ideological judges on the court without 60 votes, so she should vote to lift the same rule and allow a simple majority of senators to protect women’s rights.

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Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday confirmed that the leaked opinion was authentic, but cautioned that it did not represent a final decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which challenges Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks.

The draft, authored by Justice Samuel Alito, does not mince words, however, stating, “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start.”

The court is expected to issue its final opinion before the term ends in late June or early July. If a majority holds that Roe and the 49 years of decisions that rely on it should be overturned, the results will be immediate and tragic.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice think tank, 26 states are certain or likely to ban abortion; 22 states already have such laws in place.

The tragedy will fall heaviest on the most vulnerable Americans. People with financial and social resources will in most cases still be able to find an abortion provider, but others will not. It will hurt the poor and other families already struggling to get by. It will hurt those who are pregnant through abuse, rape and incest. It will hurt those with medically difficult pregnancies who will now be forced to put their own lives at risk.

Collins could keep that from happening by codifying the protections from Roe into law, something she says she supports, along with a large majority of Americans.

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Collins put out a statement Tuesday suggesting that Gorsuch and Kavanaugh had misled her in the confirmation process. If they end up supporting an opinion like the one that was leaked, Collins statement said, “it would be completely inconsistent with what … (they) said in their hearings and in our meetings in my office.”

As Supreme Court nominees and justices, and holders of the public trust, such deceit is at least amoral. But their votes are still binding – both Kavanaugh and Gorsuch will have a say on abortion rights, regardless of whether they lied to Collins.

But Collins can have her say, too. She can work with Democrats to pass into law the rights she says she believes in.

If she doesn’t act now, these fundamental rights will be gone.


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