Nine Maine women visited Sen. Angus King and the staff of Sen. Susan Collins in Washington on Thursday to urge the senators to stand up for legal access to abortion and vote against confirming President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

President Trump shakes hands with Judge Brett Kavanaugh, his Supreme Court nominee, while announcing his nomination at the White House on July 9. Abortion-rights advocates say Kavanaugh is likely to overturn or hobble the court’s landmark Roe V. Wade ruling.

Pro-choice groups say Kavanaugh is likely to overturn or hobble the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion. Kavanaugh was picked from a Federalist Society list of judges vetted for their adherence to conservative positions, such as overturning Roe v. Wade, and Trump has said he would pick a Supreme Court nominee who would reverse abortion rights.

The Senate is expected to vote on the Kavanaugh nomination this fall. He would replace the court’s retiring swing vote, Anthony Kennedy, who struck a middle ground on abortion, agreeing to some limitations but preserving abortion rights. Groups such as Maine Right to Life oppose abortion on religious and moral grounds.

The lobbying effort was organized by Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, which has a Portland office.

Susan Johnston, 73, of Cape Elizabeth, was one of several who shared personal stories with King’s and Collins’ staffs. She said she had an abortion when she was 17, before Roe v. Wade legalized the procedure, and the social and practical barriers she had to overcome were “like medieval times.”

“Roe v. Wade is extremely personal to me. Younger women should not have to go through anything like what I went through,” Johnston said in a phone interview from Washington. “Do we really want to go there, to where it’s illegal and have it be criminal again?”

Johnston said she’s counting on Collins to “stand firm” in favor of abortion rights.

Collins is under the microscope for the Supreme Court confirmation fight, a rare pro-choice Republican in a closely divided Senate. Collins and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, also a pro-choice Republican, are considered possible “no” votes on Kavanaugh, although neither has indicated how she would vote.

It may take only one Republican defection to sink the nomination, if all Democrats and left-leaning independents vote “no.” Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona has brain cancer and has not cast a Senate vote in months. Without McCain, Republicans hold a 50-49 majority.

While Collins has not tipped her hand, she has voted “yes” on Supreme Court nominees from Republican and Democratic administrations, including liberals Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan and conservatives John Roberts, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch. Collins was one of five Republicans, including former Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, to break ranks with the party and vote for Kagan in 2010. In 2016, Collins favored bringing former President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, to a vote, but Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to do so in Obama’s last year in office.

Collins has said she would “not support a nominee who demonstrated hostility” to Roe v. Wade, but she has also praised Kavanaugh’s credentials and respect for precedent. She noted in an NBC News interview that Kavanaugh, when he was up for Senate confirmation for a seat on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, called Roe v. Wade a “binding precedent of the court.”

But Kavanaugh has come under fire from pro-choice groups for a September 2017 speech to the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, praising former Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who wrote the dissenting opinion in Roe v. Wade.

While not saying explicitly that he favored dismantling Roe v. Wade, Kavanaugh praised Rehnquist for being against “unenumerated rights” like abortion that were not “rooted in the nation’s history and tradition.”

“He explained that a law prohibiting an abortion even where the mother’s life was in jeopardy would violate the Constitution. But otherwise he stated the states had the power to legislate with regard to this matter,” Kavanaugh said in the speech.

Collins, in a brief phone interview Thursday, said she has read the Kavanaugh speech, but wants to take a look at his full record. Collins was in Maine on Thursday and did not meet with the group from Planned Parenthood, but she did meet with another liberal pro-choice group, Mainers for Accountable Leadership, on Wednesday.

“I spent an hour and a half with experts today, met with constituents yesterday who are very concerned with that issue (abortion), and others. And I am doing a careful review,” Collins said. “The reason I’m only one of two Republicans who have not yet met with (Kavanaugh), is because I want to make sure I’ve done a very thorough review of everything before I question him personally. It is too early to make a determination on his nomination.”

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King said in a phone interview that he was impressed with the Mainers who shared personal stories about why abortion rights are important to them.

“It’s always powerful to hear directly from Maine people on these tough issues,” said King, who also has yet to make a decision on Kavanaugh. “It’s always important to remember we’re talking about real people in this case, real Maine people.”

April Duval, 32, of Rangeley, said she had an abortion at age 20, and she’s grateful such services were available because she was “completely unprepared” to be a parent.

King said he already has “some skepticism” about Kavanaugh’s rulings and statements, on abortion and his “expansive view of the authority of the president. The three branches of government are supposed to be a check on one another.”

“This is a lifetime appointment to a seat that has traditionally been a swing seat. This takes on more importance,” said King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats. “I’m really trying to understand Judge Kavanaugh’s approach and legal thinking as opposed to the fact he went to a quality law school and has been a judge. I would prefer a judge with no identifiable ideology. A judge’s judge. Ironically, that was Merrick Garland.”

Staff writer Noel Gallagher contributed to this report.

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: joelawlorph

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