The Supreme Court could erode abortion rights. Congress should protect them.


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It will likely be months before we know whether the conservative US Supreme Court will vote to weaken or overthrow Roe v. Wade. But, during argument in a case involving a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks, several judges telegraphed that they might have no problem gutting the nearly 50-year-old law that enshrined the women’s right to abortion services in federal law.

Such a court ruling would leave a woman’s rights to the discretion of her state’s lawmakers. Almost all states have some restrictions about abortion services and over 100 new were added this year only. Restrictions on abortion disproportionate harm poor women and women of color.

This should be untenable for anyone who believes that everyone in America deserves the same basic rights and protections, regardless of their gender and where they live.

Senator Susan Collins, who has long supported a woman’s right to choose, says she supports federal legislation to protect that right. Such legislation, No Men’s Health Protection Act, was passed by the US House in September. The bill would ban restrictions “onerous than those imposed on medically comparable procedures, do not significantly advance reproductive health or the safety of abortion services, and make abortion services more difficult to access. “.

The bill, which includes language condemning racism and white supremacy, has almost no chance of passing the heavily divided Senate.

“Unfortunately, the House Democrats’ bill goes way beyond the codification of Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and I do not support it,” Collins said in a statement to the BDN editorial board. Casey is a 1992 Supreme Court decision that affirmed a woman’s right to abortion services, but added some restrictions. [the House-passed] the legislation would severely weaken protections for health care providers who refuse to perform abortions on religious or moral grounds. Rather than simply codifying Roe’s protections, the House bill would undermine decades-old laws and challenge the fundamental protections of conscience that Americans rely on.

Despite these concerns, Collins continued to work on federal legislation to protect abortion rights.

“I think the protections in the Roe and Casey decisions should be enacted into law,” she said in the statement. “I have had a few conversations with my colleagues about this, and I hope there will be more discussions. Specifically, Senator Patty Murray contacted me in September because she heard that I was interested in developing legislation that would codify Roe and Casey. Shortly after, I sent him a bill that would do just that. So far there has been very little progress in the response.

“If we are unable to craft a bipartisan bill, I would consider introducing such legislation on my own,” Collins added.

This work takes on new urgency after the Supreme Court hearing last week.

Collins is in the spotlight because she was seen as a pivotal vote in the 50-48 Senate confirmation count in 2018, which placed Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. Before voting to confirm Kavanaugh, Collins said he assured him he considered Roe v. Wade as an established law.

Those assurances seemed to have faded on Wednesday as Kavanaugh suggested this wrongly overturned precedent is an important part of the court’s history: “If you think of some of the most important cases, the most important cases in the history of this court, there is a series where the cases canceled the previous one. ”

According to the Associated Press, he cited cases that have extended rights beyond what they previously were, including those that outlawed segregation and declared that same-sex couples have the right to marry. “If we think the previous precedents are gravely in error … why then does the history of this court’s practice in these cases not tell us that the correct answer is in fact a return to the position of neutrality and – and do not stick to these precedents in the same way as all the other cases?

A major difference between the cases cited by Kavanaugh and the Mississippi case is that in cases of segregation and LGBTQ rights, the court set aside the precedent of extend these rights. In the case of abortion, the conservative majority in the court seems to agree with a precedent overturning to restrict women’s rights. This would be a new direction for the court which could threaten other rights.

The Supreme Court is expected to render a decision in the Mississippi case in June. Members of Congress who support abortion rights could wisely use the time until then to craft legislation that will protect those rights in the event the court votes to reduce or void them.