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News + PoliticsWho is accountable for the end of Roe v Wade—and the awful,...

Who is accountable for the end of Roe v Wade—and the awful, horrible, results?

Did the "moderate" Republicans and centrist Democrats not realize what they were doing—or did they just not care?

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I wonder, right now, about Susan Collins.

The senator from Maine has always portrayed herself as a moderate, pro-choice Republican. But she voted to put Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, Trump nominees, on the Supreme Court. In both cases, she said, the nominees satisfied her that they considered Roe v. Wade settled law.

Protest against anti-abortion laws in Texas. Wikimedia Commons image.

You can see Kavanaugh talking about it here.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein grilled him on the issue, repeatedly, and Kavanaugh said, very clearly, that Roe is precedent, that the precedent was repeated in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and that this was “precedent upon precedent.” He noted that in a challenge to Miranda v. Arizona, the chief justice at the time, William Rehnquist, voted to uphold Miranda even though he disagreed with it, because it was settled law and undoing it would undo too many other decisions and precendents.

In other words, he told the US Senate that he wasn’t inclined to overturn Roe.

That was a clear lie.

It wasn’t a mistake or a misunderstanding; Kavanaugh lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee. He had every intention of overturning one of the most important civil and human rights decisions of the century, and he knew that admitting it would keep him off the court.

So he lied.

From the Washington Post:

Collins offered a similar rationale in 2017 when voting to confirm Gorsuch: “I asked him if it would be sufficient to overturn a long-established precedent if five current justices believed that a previous decision was wrongly decided,” she said in a floor speech before voting to confirm him. “He responded: ‘Emphatically no.’ And that, to me, is the right approach. He said a good judge always starts with precedent and presumes that the precedent is correct.”

And now Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski are shocked, shocked that the Supreme Court, thanks to the people they approved, is overturning Roe v. Wade.

“If this leaked draft opinion is the final decision and this reporting is accurate, it would be completely inconsistent with what Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh said in their hearings and in our meetings in my office,” Collins said in a statement. “Obviously, we won’t know each Justice’s decision and reasoning until the Supreme Court officially announces its opinion in this case.”

But yes we do, at least as far as the Trump appointees go. They are voting to overturn Roe.

So I have to wonder: Was Senator Collins really so incredibly naïve, after 23 years in that august body, that she actually believed Kavanaugh and Gorsuch were telling the truth?

Or did she not really care about the future of reproductive rights?

Either way, she lied to her constituents when she ran for re-election.

I mention Collins because this is the political reality that we now have to face: People who voted for Trump or stayed home because they were mad at the Democratic Party and didn’t like Hillary Clinton, people who supported “moderate” Republicans, people who don’t want to increase the size of the Supreme Court or get rid of the filibuster to protect the rights of women to control their own bodies … they have to be accountable for what anyone with any sense saw coming.

There are many, many lives at risk here. In the pre-Roe days, thousands of women died from botched abortions. Thousands more died from domestic violence during pregnancy. Most of those lives will be young, low-income women of color.

And the draft decision isn’t just about abortion rights. In its current form, it would undo an entire half century of civil-rights jurisprudence. It would eliminate the concept that there’s a right to privacy in the Constitution, which means everything from contraception to same-sex marriage is at risk.

This is a huge deal, a defining moment in US history.

It’s also a time we have to acknowledge that Republicans lie, repeatedly, constantly, to get what they want—and if the “collegial” folks like Collins and President Biden, who may love the old days when the Senate functioned with respect, don’t get that, then they are part of the problem.

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Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.

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