Once again, Maine senator Susan Collins sits at a pressure point of a national civil rights issue.
Galvanized by a Twitter campaign late last week (hashtagged as #HangersForCollins), pro-choice advocates around the U.S. mailed packages of wire hangers to the GOP senator’s Washington and Bangor offices. The act was intended to remind Collins of the consequences a Trump-appointed Supreme Court Justice could have on her stated commitment to reproductive rights and Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion.
It's already begun. pic.twitter.com/Rr2BE1JZH9— June Casagrande (@JuneCasagrande) June 29, 2018
“The simple act of calling and tallying is not registering with any Republican in Congress,” wrote Albuquerque resident Mary Wesolowski in an e-mail to the Phoenix. Wesolowski sent $14.95 worth of hangers to Collins’ Washington office Friday.
“The United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developing world and without safe and legal access to abortion, even more women will die,” wrote New York resident Bella Pori, who shot over a $1.99 pack to Collins’ Washington office.
Wire hangers have a long history as symbols in pro-choice and reproductive rights movements. Before the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, illegal or self-induced procedures accounted for an estimated 5,000 deaths among U.S. women annually (a figure which excludes those critically injured). Advocates also argue that rolling back Roe would harm women's health and reproductive justice as a whole, further threatening already alarming trends. While the rate of maternal mortality has declined in other developed countries, studies show that it has dramatically risen in the U.S. since 2000.
“I have two daughters and I don’t want them to live in a country where a pregnancy can kill them,” wrote Wesolowski.
IS SHE LISTENING?
Collins, along with Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski, represent key votes in conservative-controlled Senate with 51 Republicans. Both have expressed pro-choice positions in the past, and are expected to be at the center of attention this week as Trump moves to select his Supreme Court nominee. Justice Anthony Kennedy announced Wednesday that he would be retiring at the end of the session.
According to a report in the New York Times Sunday, Susan Collins said that she would not vote to confirm a Supreme Court justice who "showed hostility" to Roe v. Wade.
“A candidate for this important position who would overturn Roe v. Wade would not be acceptable to me, because that would indicate an activist agenda that I don’t want to see a judge have,” Collins said on ABC’s “This Week.”
These statements seemed to reverse than those that emerged from her office last Thursday, when the Portland Press Herald quoted a spokesperson from Collins’ office saying the senator ”wouldn't apply ideological litmus tests” to her vote to confirm a SCOTUS nominee.
“When Senator Collins evaluates judges, she always looks at their judicial temperament; qualifications; experience; and respect for precedent, the rule of law, and the Constitution,” the Press Herald quoted Collins spokeswoman Annie Clark.
President Trump, however, shares no such distaste for letting ideology guide his decision-making. Per reports, President Trump has publicly stated a wish to appoint a judge who will overrule Roe v. Wade. It is believed that Trump‘s nominee will come from the list of 20-25 nominees released last year when filling Antonin Scalia’s seat, all of whom pundits believe would vote to overturn Roe. Trump has expressed an intention to name a SCOTUS nominee by July 9.
The 65-year-old Collins has crafted a reputation for being a political moderate, and has been a vocal advocate for women’s health and abortion rights over her career. It was unclear at press time whether Collins' offices had received the packages.
Meanwhile, a campaign may be mounting to halt Trump's nominee. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) stated over the weekend that there should be no vote to confirm a Supreme Court justice nominated by a president under federal investigation.
This strategy has found purchase with pro-choice advocates lobbying Collins.
“I firmly believe that no president under investigation by the FBI should be appointing any lifetime appointments until the investigation is cleared,” wrote Wesolowski in a message to the senator attached with the hangers.