With President Trump's announcement of his U.S. Supreme Court nominee just hours away, health care advocates are stepping up pressure on Senator Susan Collins to protect abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act.
As some await the announcement with dismay, Trump supporters are celebrating the nomination of a justice who they say won't be subject to liberal bias.
Ever since President Trump was elected, says Nicole Clegg of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, her organization and its affiliates across the country have been targeted with attempts to restrict access to care. Speaking at a press conference at the Statehouse in Augusta, Clegg says Planned Parenthood has turned to Senator Collins in the past for support, and that support is needed more than ever.
"We're turning to Senator Collins and saying we need you lock-step with our patients,” says Clegg. “They turn to us. They know that they need safe access to legal abortion, and we need you to protect that right for them."
Some groups have urged Collins to vet nominees to determine their position on Roe v. Wade, the federal law that protects a woman's right to abortion. But Clegg has a simpler solution: reject Trump's reported short list of four nominees, which has been influenced by the conservative organization the Federalist Society.
"We know that this list is unacceptable,” Clegg says. “We know that these judges and their hostility to women's ability to make decisions about their pregnancy disqualify them for serving on our Supreme Court."
The Maine Women's Lobby is also urging Collins to oppose the nominees, who Executive Director Eliza Townsend says will take the country backwards.
"While I appreciate her statement that she will not vote to confirm any nominee that is openly hostile to Roe versus Wade, I ask her to do more,” Townsend says. “We need her to thoroughly examine the nominee's track record and values. We need her to ask hard questions and not accept facile answers from any nominee."
It's more than abortion that is at stake, says Rebecca London, state director for Protect Our Care, a coalition of organizations that advocate for the Affordable Care Act. London cites the Department of Justice's recent decision not to defend current insurance protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
"Mainers suffering from diabetes, asthma and cancer need to know they cannot be discriminated against in the future,” says London. “They need to know that the protections afforded them today will last a lifetime."
While many progressive advocates feel a sense of foreboding about president Trump's Supreme Court pick, other observers are eagerly anticipating the announcement.
"Any day that you know you're going to get a new Supreme Court justice, that's a day to celebrate,” says Aaron Chadbourne, an attorney who previously served as senior policy advisor to Governor LePage. “It's a historic day."
Chadbourne set up a table outside the Statehouse Monday afternoon to offer pre-written congratulatory postcards addressed to President Trump to anyone interested. Chadbourne says he voted for Trump, in part, because of his promise to appoint a justice who,as Chadbourne puts it, would uphold the rule of law.
"In the last several decades, there's been a trend to appoint justices interested in writing the law,” says Chadbourne. “Activist judges at every level.”
Chadbourne says he is ambivalent about Roe v Wade, but it's a primary issue for Bevelyn Beatty, a Republican who is running for the Statehouse seat in Belfast, and who joined Chadbourne to distribute postcards.
"My key thing is turning over Roe v Wade,” Beatty says. “This is the biggest thing for me."
Beatty says she's had three abortions, and she doesn't want other women to make the same mistakes that she did.
"This is just major,” she says. “So many prayers. So many Christians who've been praying and fighting and protesting this. I know people in Denver, Colorado who have been fighting this once it was turned since the 70s, so to finally see this going on, this is like prayers answered for everyone. "
Both Senator Collins and Senator Angus King are expected to issue statements after the President announces his nominee.