Susan Collins has stopped pretending to support abortion rights

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The Maine Republican has said she's 'always been pro-choice,' but she's refusing to act to protect abortion rights in red states.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) was reelected last year after running a campaign claiming to be a pro-choice "centrist." Her record since then has been anything but.

On Tuesday, the fifth-term Republican announced she would not support the Women's Health Protection Act of 2021. The bill, which seeks to officially codify the Supreme Court's landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, could stop Republican-controlled states from restricting abortion rights.

Collins opposes the proposed law, claiming it is "extreme" and would undermine religious liberty — an opinion she shares with right-wing groups like the Heritage Foundation. She said she objects to the "extreme" act because she believes provisions "would severely weaken the conscious exceptions that are in the current law," an apparent reference to the act's banning religious exemptions as outlined in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced the Women's Health Protection Act in June, and 47 senators have signed on to co-sponsor the bill, including Collins' Maine colleague, independent Sen. Angus King. The bill's sponsors say the legislation is urgently needed to help ensure that "a woman's constitutional rights should not depend on her zip code."

Collins has long tried to curry favor with Maine voters by insisting she's a common-sense centrist who is willing to work across the aisle with Democrats. In her 2020 campaign kickoff announcement, Collins called herself "a centrist who believes in getting things done through compromise, collegiality, and bipartisanship." And last October, Collins told voters, "I am pro-choice and I've always been pro-choice."

Her own record says otherwise.

On Wednesday, Collins announced in a video that she was endorsing Republican former Maine Gov. Paul LePage, an abortion rights opponent and notorious racist who moved to Florida in 2019, in his challenge to pro-choice Democratic incumbent Gov. Janet Mills. "As Maine recovers from the pandemic, Paul is the best candidate to grow our economy," she claimed, "Paul is a job creator, that's his background, he's done it before and he will do it again."

Earlier this month, the Republican-appointed majority on the Supreme Court allowed Texas to implement a ban on abortions after six weeks — effectively nullifying its decades-old precedents protecting the right to choose. Collins said she disagreed with the ruling, but has made no effort to help her Senate colleagues enshrine Roe as the law of the land.

Collins herself voted to confirm three of the justices who voted in favor of Texas' six-week abortion ban, including Justice Brett Kavanaugh. During Kavanaugh's Senate hearings in 2018, Collins insisted that he wouldn't work to overturn Roe — even though then-President Donald Trump had explicitly promised to only nominate justices who would do so.

Collins has also moved to block stimulus funding during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. She voted against the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which provided $1,400 relief checks to most Americans; expanded the child tax credit for 92% of families with kids; and invested billions in pandemic relief and state and local governments.

She is currently fighting to block President Joe Biden's $3.5 trillion proposed Build Back Better plan, which would invest in health care, child care, paid leave, free community college, universal pre-K, climate change, and clean energy infrastructure.

Most recently, Collins has allied herself with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in blocking a bill that would raise the debt ceiling, which would both allow the government to keep operating and avoid a catastrophic default on the national debt.

"The Democrats have added enormous amounts of debt, including the $1.9 trillion package, now $3.5 trillion on top of that, so they bear the responsibility for increasing the debt limit," Collins told reporters last week.

Over the past year, Collins has reversed course on many of her supposedly "centrist" bona fides on abortion rights, LGBTQ rights, and voting rights.

Collins joined her fellow Republicans in blocking the For the People Act, a voting rights and election reform bill that would have stopped states from enacting voter suppression bills. She claimed the legislation would "take away the rights of people in each of the 50 states to determine which election rules work best for their citizens."

Collins also abandoned her previous support for LGBTQ rights. She refused to co-sponsor the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity protections to existing federal civil rights laws, even though she had done so in the past. Instead, she demanded the bill be changed to grant religious groups the right to receive federal funding even if they discriminate against LGBTQ people.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.