Susan Collins Opposes Abortion Rights Bill Based On Thing She Totally Made Up

Abortion

In case you hadn't noticed, reproductive rights are not long for this world. At least in this country. At least in states where those in charge just really, really, really want to force people to give birth against their will. In an attempt to fight this encroachment on our liberty, Democrats are once again pushing to pass the Women's Health Protection Act, authored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, which would codify Roe into law and ensure that abortion rights are protected for everyone in this country, regardless of where they happen to live.

The House bill, sponsored by Judy Chu with 48 Democratic co-sponsors, is expected to be approved on Friday, and would legalize abortion in all states up until fetal viability (when a fetus can survive outside the uterus) and prevent states from enacting laws restricting or banning the procedure.

Now, you would think that Susan Collins, one of the two remaining pro-choice Republican senators, someone who very much claims to care deeply for reproductive rights even as she signed off on Brett freaking Kavanaugh, would agree to vote to save reproductive rights from state-level sabotage. You would be wrong. She says she will vote against it. In an interview with the LA Times, Collins explained her reasoning.


[I]n a brief interview, Collins said the bill goes further than that by interfering 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 [sic] exceptions that are in the current law," Collins said, adding that she found parts of the bill's language "extreme."

Collins said the bill would weaken the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which protects a person's ability to exercise their religion. She cited the past support for the act by Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and President Biden when he was in the Senate.

"This 'carve out' would be unprecedented, and I do not believe it is necessary to codify Roe," she said in a follow-up statement.

Well, now we know why Collins never gives specific reasons beyond "I have concerns" for opposing anything one would assume she would support. Because when she does get into specifics, she's just plain wrong.

There is literally nothing in the WHPA that would require anyone who does not want to "participate" in an abortion to participate in one — not that this would even be much of a concern, since it seems highly unlikely that anyone who does not want to participate in an abortion would be working in an abortion clinic, which is where the vast, vast majority of abortions are performed. Instead, the Women's Health Protection Act bars the government from limiting health care providers from performing abortions before viability, including with made-up rules regarding unnecessary medical tests (your transvaginal ultrasounds and such) or rules about how wide the hallways must be at abortion clinics, etc. It confirms a health care provider's right to perform an abortion; it doesn't mandate that anyone do so.

One part of the WHPA does, in fact, say that it supersedes other federal law, including RFRA. Let's make something clear: federal RFRA only applies to the federal government. This inclusion in the WHPA is seemingly to make it clear that employees of federal hospitals cannot use RFRA as a defense to refuse emergency care related to abortions or miscarriages, which is what federal law already says. But at least this way, the Supreme Court of Gilead can't use RFRA to strike down the WHPA.

It would be lovely if Collins could be a tad more specific, because it is possible that she is just confused. Perhaps she read the headline of this article from The Heritage Foundation, titled "The Left Keeps Trying To Codify Roe. This Time, It's Also Slashing RFRA" and failed to read the article, which is a very stupid argument against the Equality Act, not the WHPA.

Unfortunately, we kind of need Collins's vote. It's likely that Democrats Joe Manchin and Bob Casey will vote against the bill, as they are both extremely anti-choice, so in order to even get a simple majority, we'd need both Collins and Murkowski to sign on. And that's just assuming that Kyrsten Sinema would vote with Democrats. She's had a good record on abortion rights so far in her career, but we wouldn't put it past her to suddenly change her mind or decide she doesn't really want reproductive rights after all if Republicans think they are bad.

So if it means getting Collins's vote, perhaps Democrats can throw in a little "And we promise not to force anyone to perform an abortion against their will" amendment in there for her benefit, since that's not anything anyone cares to do anyway.

[LA Times / WHPA bill text]

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse

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