The chances of the Democrats passing new legislation to protect a woman’s right to choose took a major hit Thursday as Senator Susan Collins of Maine said she opposes the Women’s Health Protection Act.
Collins, the rare Republican who publicly supports abortion, told the L.A. Times she believes the language of the legislation is too extreme and would undercut protection of “a person’s ability to exercise their religion.”
The Democrats’ bill would prohibit states from enacting restrictions on abortion through fetal viability. It’s meant to “codify” the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion. The House is expected to pass the bill on Friday, while Democrats in the Senate mull whether to bring it to a vote.
But losing Collins’ support almost certainly means the bill will fail to gain the 50 votes needed to clear the Senate. The Senator says she is talking with colleagues about crafting a new bill that she says would do a job of systematizing Roe vs. Wade. But that will do little to quell the anger and frustration among liberals who distrust Collins and believe she says one thing while doing something else.
The proposed legislation was designed to be a federal response to the anti-abortion law in Texas that is considered the most restrictive in the country. It makes abortion after six weeks a criminal offense, and empowers private citizens to sue anyone who aids and abets in the abortion-seeking process, with the incentive of possible financial payouts.
Collins told the Times the new legislation goes too far.
The Senator went on to say she believes the bill also interferes with existing law that ensures health professionals who object to abortion are not required to participate in it. “I support codifying Roe. Unfortunately the bill … goes way beyond that. It would severely weaken the conscious exceptions that are in the current law,” Collins said.
The Biden administration, which has taken a strong public position against the Texas law — the DOJ intends to sue the state over it — is urging Congress to pass the legislation.
The key provision of the Democrats’ bill is a ban on states prohibiting or interfering with abortion through viability. It is also a response to some state laws that abortion rights supporters say curtail access to the procedure.
Collins is one of only two current Republicans in the Senate who support abortion rights; Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski is the other. That is of little comfort to liberal supporters still upset over Collins’ vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Collins had said at the time she was convinced Kavanaugh considered Roe v Wade “settled law.”
Kavanaugh voted in favor of the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the new Texas law to remain in place and is considered likely to vote to undermine Roe.