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Maine Advocates Urge Collins, King To Reject Some Trump Judicial Nominees

J. Scott Applewhite
Associated Press
Neomi Rao, President Donald Trump's nominee for a seat on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee Feb. 5, 2019. Rao is generating opposition among Maine women's advocates.

Health, environmental, and women's rights advocates are urging Senators Angus King and Susan Collins to vote against several of President Trump's federal judicial nominees.

Though nominees Naomi Rao and Chad Readler would serve in districts outside of Maine, Eliza Townsend of the Maine Women's Lobby says their partisan stances would have local implications.

"They have consistently held records that show them to be hostile to the rights of women and to LGBTQ Americans," Townsend says.

Rao has also been criticized for her controversial writings in college about date rape. She recently apologized, saying her perspective has evolved.

Townsend called on Collins to break her pattern of support for President Trump's nominees, including Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Last week, both justices dissented in a case that preserved abortion access in Louisiana.

Collins, meanwhile, continues to defend Justice Kavanaugh for his minority dissent which she says has been misinterpreted by her critics. While the Louisiana state law would have required doctors working at abortion clinics to obtain privileges at nearby hospitals, Collins says the bill also allowed for a 45- day transition period to get them.

"Judge Kavanaugh simply said that we ought to wait and see what happens during those 45- days because if the doctors are able to obtain privileges, than there's no issue,” says Collins. “There's no lessening of the availability of these physicians to perform abortions."

Collins says Kavanaugh specifically stated that he was relying on precedent in a similar case in which requiring admitting privileges in local hospitals in Texas was determined by the Supreme Court to be an "undue burden" to women seeking their constitutional right to have an abortion.

"And what he was really saying is that it was premature for the Supreme Court to get involved in the (Louisiana) case until the 45 days had expired," she says.

Collins says she does not think this was an unreasonable position. But the group NARAL Pro-Choice America disagrees. In a statement the group said the Louisiana case "illustrates a sobering reminder (that) the thread that women’s rights hang by is dangerously thin in so many places across the country."

Maureen Drouin of Maine Conservation Voters says nominee Rao has also rolled back environmental protections while in office.

"The D.C. Circuit is considered by many as the 2nd highest court in the nation, and handles most of the challenges to these rollbacks on environmental protections,” Drouin says. “Confirming a partisan, anti-environment nominee to a lifetime position on this court undermines its function as an independent check on the executive branch."

In a recent Senate Judiciary committee hearing, Rao acknowledged the scientific consensus on climate change and that human activity contributes to climate change.

Updated 5:48 p.m. Feb. 14, 2019