The Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health will go down in history as a self-inflicted wound to American democracy.

A half-dozen unelected and unaccountable judges put their religious beliefs ahead of a tradition of pluralism and abolished a constitutional right to abortion that had been recognized for nearly half a century.

There are many people who should be held responsible for this decision and what comes after it, starting with the six Republican appointees on the Supreme Court who all lied about their intentions to outlaw abortion at the first opportunity, including the alleged institutionalist Chief Justice John Roberts.

But the responsibility does not stop there.

In Maine, we need to look no further than “our senator,” Susan Collins. Despite claiming to support abortion rights, she played a key role in assembling this court. Although she’s only one vote in the Senate, it’s hard to see how a decision like this could have happened over her objection or without her support.

In 2017, Collins joined her party in abolishing the 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominations, guaranteeing that there would never be a moderate, consensus justice nominated, maybe not ever.


At the time, Republicans had a three-vote majority and Collins would have needed to only convince two other colleagues to join her in stopping the rule change. Instead, she voted for it, while lamenting the loss of comity in the U.S. Senate.

She then vouched for nominee Neil Gorsuch, whom she claimed assured her that he believed in upholding longstanding precedents like Roe v. Wade. In her floor speech she gushed that Gorsuch had even co-authored a book about the importance of following precedent.

She went even further a year later when Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to take the place of Justice Anthony Kennedy, a moderate voice on abortion rights.

Collins said she could not support a nominee who “demonstrated hostility” to Roe v. Wade and abortion rights, but enthusiastically campaigned for Kavanaugh, claiming that he had assured her that he considered Roe to be “settled law.”

Collins did not vote for the third Trump nominee to the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett, in 2020, but for procedural reasons, not because she recognized Barrett as an anti-abortion zealot. Collins said she did not think there should be a vote just a few weeks before a presidential election.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks with then Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh at her office in August 2018. Hers was a crucial vote for his appointment. Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press

Was Collins fooled by these judges or was she lying? I don’t know. I can’t see inside her head. But I do know one thing for sure – she should have known.


Donald Trump knew. He promised to only appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade and asked the Federalist Society for a list.

Federalist Society Executive Vice President Leonard Leo knew what names to give him. He also felt close enough to Collins to hold a fundraiser for her at his Northeast Harbor mansion in 2019.

The leaders of the anti-abortion movement knew. They raised money to promote these nominees and celebrated when they were confirmed.

Even I knew that Collins was wrong.

American history is full of examples of the Supreme Court overturning precedents. Why would someone go through all the trouble of becoming a justice just to rubber stamp old opinions that no longer seem relevant? Collins’ position just made no sense.

Collins and the abortion-rights supporters who have voted for her every six years deserve a share of the blame for this catastrophic opinion and everything that will follow it.


What might that be? History tells us it could be very bad.

In 1857, Abraham Lincoln warned that “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

He was talking about the prospects of a country that was “half slave and half free” but he could have been talking about the Supreme Court’s Friday bombshell.

About half the states have laws on the books or pending that will outlaw abortion, in some cases recognizing full legal “personhood” at the moment of fertilization.

Can the house stand if abortion is a routine aspect of reproductive health care in a state like Illinois, but murder in Missouri?

How will anti-abortion states try to prevent women from leaving home to access services across the border?

Will vigilante laws, like the one in Texas, which gives any individual the standing to sue an abortion provider in state court, be able to drive the process underground, where it was before Roe v. Wade?

We are going to find out. Abortion is not “settled law” now and, thanks to the court and its enablers, will not be for a long, long time.

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