A few weeks ago I was looking through old Maine Women’s Lobby files from my time as a board member in the late ’80s and early ’90s. I came across a poster that I had helped produce for Women’s History Month. It was designed to get people’s attention, so it was large with splashes of silver and fuschia on a black background.

The text read: Make RAPE HARASSMENT OPPRESSION INEQUALITY SEXUAL ABUSE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DOUBLE STANDARDS DISCRIMINATION History.

Did I mention that poster was created in 1992?

In the pile was another reminder of what we were fighting against when I was young back in the last century. Robert Bork had been nominated to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan. We were more successful in making Bork history because of his strong opposition to women making their own decisions about their bodies. His replacement, Anthony Kennedy, has been a mixed bag when it comes to trusting women but the irony (or should I say my dismay?) at realizing that 31 years later, we are having to fight the same battle for this Supreme Court seat, leaves me extremely sad for young women of reproductive age now living in this country. At a time when even Ireland is recognizing that women should be left alone with their physician to make decisions about how to handle an unplanned pregnancy, this country is returning to the days of back-alley butchers.

One of our senators at the time, Bill Cohen, voted to confirm Robert Bork. I knew from my work as a family planning director before Reagan was elected, Cohen supported women’s abilities to make the right decision about their bodies. Clearly, the pressure to support his party came before his personal beliefs once the Republican Party twisted itself in knots to allow government intrusion into people’s lives in order to secure votes from the country’s Evangelical Christians.

The difference between Bill Cohen voting for Bork then and Susan Collins voting for Brett Kavanaugh now is that in 1987, the Republican Party at least believed there was a need for government. Members of both parties worked to find a balance of what that role should be. That’s how our form of government worked and members of both parties believed there was a need to preserve the republic. The current Republican Party feels no such pressure.

Oddly for someone supported by Planned Parenthood, with this vote Collins seems baffled by the lack of “personal stories” that characterized constituents’ concerns around her vote to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. After the 30-plus years of violence in and around clinics, and the murders of physicians who risked their lives to provide abortion services, why is she surprised that women don’t want to speak about their personal stories?

Really, though, why would the lack of those stories even matter for her? Why isn’t it enough to declare her opposition to appointing a justice to the Supreme Court who praised the dissenting opinion in Roe v. Wade, who ruled in a recent case against allowing a young woman in federal detention to get an abortion, and who is backed by an aggressive confirmation campaign waged by “pro-life” groups?

Kavanaugh has been nominated by a president who pledged to his base to appoint anti-choice justices, who has implemented a global gag order, and who is now proposing to implement one here at home. His vice president declared at a 2017 March for Life rally, “We will not rest until we restore a culture of life in America for ourselves and our posterity.”

We have not made history of the grievances listed on that 1992 poster. Rather, this president has made history by bragging about sexual assault, tolerating an advisor known to have abused his wife, and has no problem oppressing and harassing women. Why is that not enough evidence for Sen. Collins to declare her opposition to Brett Kavanaugh’s lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land?

Maybe she should consider this her “Declaration of Conscience” moment. After all, if she decides to run again, she will no doubt lose the primary to Maxx Linn, who has already announced he will haul out his “Trump Strong” signs to run against her. Most primary voters consider her a RINO (Republican In Name Only), so perhaps this could be her moment. She could declare she will un-enroll from a party that believes it’s OK to lock brown children in cages, the Russians are our best friends, and women aren’t deserving of reproductive rights or respect. She could no doubt win as an un-enrolled candidate because the few remaining moderate Republicans, many independents, and some conservative Democrats are her real base, so it wouldn’t even be much of a risk.

Maybe, too, all of the men who support women could actually step up and publicly state their “personal stories” about why they believe women’s rights are becoming a thing of the past and their demand that we not go back.

Now that would be history making.

Karen Heck is a resident and former mayor of Waterville.

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