In this Aug. 7, 2018, photo, President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, officiates at the swearing-in of Judge Britt Grant to take a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta at the U.S. District Courthouse in Washington. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite | AP

Most Mainers believe women have a fundamental right to make their own health care decisions. With uncertainty mounting over the future of Roe v. Wade, all eyes are once again on Maine, and Sen. Susan Collins’ recent meeting with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has me deeply concerned. Kavanaugh’s nomination poses a very real threat to women’s health and reproductive freedom.

For positions of extraordinary power, candidates typically undergo a thorough vetting processes to ensure they are the best fit for the job. With Kavanaugh, it should be no different. I urge Collins to insist that all of Kavanaugh’s documents be released without censorship before a vote.

Nothing in Kavanaugh’s record bodes well for reproductive freedom. He has criticized the ruling on Roe, calling the decision part of the “general tide of freewheeling judicial creation of unenumerated rights that were not rooted in the nation’s history and tradition.” Kavanaugh has been praised as “ a warrior for religious liberty,” who has dismissed the separation of church and state, argued for denying female employees no-cost birth control based on their employers’ personal religious beliefs and argued against the right of a detained young immigrant woman to obtain an abortion even after she met all of Texas’ legal criteria. This is a clear and consistent pattern of “hostile” behavior toward the landmark ruling allowing women to have control over their own health care decisions. Not to mention, there’s still a lot that we still don’t know.

Maine women don’t need carefully worded statements and vague platitudes, they need commitment and action from their elected officials — especially given President Donald Trump’s promise to only appoint anti-abortion judges to the highest court. That’s why over a dozen Maine lawmakers, including myself, have joined hundreds of our colleagues around the country in signing a public statement opposing Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. We also intend to take action at the local and state level to protect the rights of women regardless of what happens with Roe.

Today’s debate clouds the real issues — at its core, this fight isn’t really about a Supreme Court case, but liberty, dignity and autonomy for women. Women everywhere recognize that reproductive freedom is the linchpin of economic security and opportunity, providing them with the capacity to decide if, when and how many children to have so they can control their destinies. That’s what’s really at stake. Women already know from their own experience what research shows: inequity isn’t just driven by gender, but also by childbearing. Women face a per-child wage penalty for becoming parents while men do not.

In a nation where women are paid less than men, child care is unaffordable, there’s no system of paid family leave, and pregnancy discrimination is rampant, women must have the freedom to manage their own fertility in order to economically succeed and take care of their families. That’s why a majority of the public has long supported Roe and why support for abortion rights is now at an all-time high.

Attention to Roe opens up an opportunity to take long overdue action in states to not just protect reproductive freedom but increase meaningful access to health care for everyone so that we all have the tools needed to stay healthy and economically strong.

It’s time for states like Maine to lead. Elected officials must uphold the sacred duty of public office by honoring our charge to act for a better future. After so many years of fighting back against restrictions on the freedom of women to control their own reproductive health, it’s time to fight to advance the most fundamental human rights of the people we serve.

Maine women have a history of standing up for what’s right. With this nomination, we have the opportunity to lead the charge again to ensure all women in this country have access to the necessary health information and care to improve their lives and shape their futures. I know our country will be better for it.

Rebecca Millett represents South Portland, Cape Elizabeth and part of Scarborough in the Maine Senate.

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