Collins challenger picks up Planned Parenthood endorsement in Maine Senate race

Collins challenger picks up Planned Parenthood endorsement in Maine Senate race
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Planned Parenthood Action Fund has endorsed the Democrat challenging Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsErnst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Toward 'Super Tuesday' — momentum, money and delegates MORE (R-Maine) in her closely watched reelection race.

Planned Parenthood’s endorsement of Sara Gideon, Speaker of Maine’s House of Representatives, could be a setback for Collins, who is one of the few Republicans in Congress who supports abortion rights.

Collins had been supported by Planned Parenthood in the past. But the organization said Collins has “abandoned” women with her vote last year to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughA disgraced Senate and president have no business confirming judges Manchin not ruling out endorsing Trump reelection Impeachment fallout threatens to upend battle for Senate MORE, who was accused of sexual misconduct.

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“We were once encouraged by Senator Collins’s support of reproductive rights, yet she has abandoned not only the people of Maine, but women across the country,” said Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s acting president, Alexis McGill Johnson.

Collins, who is considered one of the most moderate members of the Senate, has long been a friend to Planned Parenthood, typically voting with Democrats against “defunding” the women’s health organization and limiting abortion.

She has a 70 percent approval rating from Planned Parenthood’s congressional scorecard for her votes against bills that would repeal ObamaCare and ban abortions after 20 weeks.

Collins was honored by Planned Parenthood in 2017 for being an “outspoken champion for women’s health.”

Planned Parenthood hasn't endorsed Collins since 2002 after remaining neutral in her 2008 and 2014 Senate campaigns. 

But 2020 is a crucial election year for reproductive rights groups as the battle over abortion shifts from the states and Congress to the courts. 

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State legislatures have ramped up their efforts to ban abortion in recent years, and advocates fear Trump-appointed judges will uphold those laws. 

The Senate has confirmed 187 of Trump's judicial nominations since he took office, with Collins supporting most of them. She also voted for both of Trump's Supreme Court nominees, which gave the court a conservative majority. 

The Supreme Court will hear a consequential case this year centered on a Louisiana law that requires doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Opponents argue the law, which has not taken effect, is aimed at forcing clinics to close down.

“Senator Collins has stood by as this administration continues to stack our federal court system with judges who oppose safe, legal abortion and advances policies that allow discrimination,” McGill Johnson said. 

Kevin Kelley, a spokesman for the senator's reelection campaign, noted that Collins has "consistently" supported Planned Parenthood even though the group has not endorsed her since 2002. 

"Senator Collins has not changed, but leadership at Planned Parenthood certainly has," Kelley said. 
 
"It's sad that the group is now run by far left activists who would rather focus on partisan politics than bipartisan policies that provide healthcare to women."

Collins is one of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans up for reelection in a race ranked a “toss-up” by the Cook Political Report.

Emily's List and NARAL, both abortion rights campaign groups, have already endorsed Gideon. 

Gideon will have to defeat three other Democrats in the state party's June primary in June.

-- Updated at 12:06 pm.