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Phil Harriman, a former town councilor and state senator from Yarmouth, is the founding partner of Lebel & Harriman, a financial services firm. Ethan Strimling, a former mayor and state senator from Portland, is the president of Swing Hard. Turn Left, which promotes progressive policy at the local, state and national levels.
Phil: I don’t think I have ever seen a group of people more fired up about something that hasn’t happened than Democrats acting like Roe v. Wade has been overturned.
Ethan: Perhaps if you had caught last week’s hearing in front of the Supremes you’d understand our angst?
Phil: I did. Take a deep breath, that hearing was the start of a six-month process, for which the outcome is still completely unknown.
Ethan: “Completely unknown”? I may have gone to the High School of Performing Arts, but I did learn to count to five. And by every measure there are five, maybe six, justices who made clear they do not want Roe to stand.
Phil: When have I heard this before? Oh, I remember, it was 1992. As you’ll recall, everyone said at the time that Casey v. Planned Parenthood was the end of Roe. But then, of course, that didn’t happen. Why? Because three Republican appointees, in particular Justice Anthony Kennedy, affirmed this basic constitutional right, surprising everyone.
Ethan: Except those Justices had not appeared anywhere near as hostile to Roe as the super-majority of justices did last week. The six who asked questions this time, all appointed by Republican presidents, were not asking questions to simply understand the nuances of why their predecessors had ruled as they did.
Phil: You know as well as I do that justices ask questions to be devil’s advocates, to try out arguments their opponents may use, and/or to wrestle with the hardest questions they are asking themselves.
Ethan: I can’t tell if you are in denial, if you know something the rest of us don’t, or if you are a shepherd trying to lead us to the edge of a beautiful cliff – before you push us over.
Phil: None of the above. I know nothing more than any of us and I am a pro-choice Republican, so I have no interest in seeing Roe overturned. And I am not in denial. Because, again, nothing has happened!
Ethan: And if something does?
Phil: Well, first of all, I have no control over what the court does in six months, so I am not going to fret about it now. Second, if something does happen, I feel confident a woman’s right to choose is safe in Maine.
Ethan: I generally agree that we are safe from the craziest restrictions we are seeing in the south. It has been a long time since a restriction on abortion has passed the Legislature, and the last time Maine people were asked their opinion they defeated a referendum restricting a woman’s right to choose in 1999 by almost 50,000 votes. However, if Paul LePage, an avowed pro-lifer were to win… That said, Maine is not my only concern. If the court overturns Roe, women across the country will be at risk.
Phil: Let’s be clear about something, the hearing wasn’t about the right to an abortion. It was about how far a state can go in the regulation of abortion, which already exists. But that’s where Sen. Susan Collins comes in. She has made clear she will introduce legislation to codify Roe, should the court go so far as to overturn the precedent.
Ethan: You have a lot more faith in her powers to pass legislation. But if she really does want to codify Roe, why wait?
Phil: Let’s see what they decide, then act. I predict they will allow for further state restrictions, but that the basic right will stand.
Ethan: Depending on the level of restriction they allow, that basic right may remain in name only.