Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., speaks with Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME., as they arrive for a memorial service for U.S. Capitol Police officer William "Billy" Evans, in the Rotunda at the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Washington. Credit: Drew Angerer / AP

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins was part of a bipartisan group that released text of a bill on Monday that would codify federal abortion-rights protections that were thrown out in June by the conservative-led Supreme Court.

The new measure emerged from talks between the Maine Republican and Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, after Collins joined all Republicans and one Democrat in May to block a more sweeping abortion-rights bill advanced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York.

It remains a poor bet for passage because of the 60-vote filibuster threshold that Collins, one of the rare Republican backers of abortion rights, and other key senators are unwilling to break. Narrow majority passage of the measure in the 50-50 Senate would only be a symbolic victory.

The Kaine-led bill is a simple framework that would ban states from instituting regulations that would impose an “undue burden” on abortion access before the point of viability, which is typically defined as around 24 weeks. States could limit post-viability abortions as long as abortions protecting the health of the mother are not banned.

It would also codify the right to contraceptives, which is protected under a high-court precedent that conservative Justice Clarence Thomas said should be revisited in a concurring opinion in the case that tossed Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that shielded abortion rights.

“The Supreme Court’s recent abandonment of longstanding precedent erodes the reproductive rights on which women have relied for half a century,” Collins said in a statement.

Sweeping abortion bans have taken effect in nine states already after the decision, while another four states ban abortions at six weeks, a period before most women know they are pregnant, according to a New York Times tally. Maine has a permissive set of abortion laws that have been loosened further by Gov. Janet Mills and a Democratic-led Legislature.

Collins was a central figure in the fight over the high court and abortion rights, voting in 2018 for Justice Brett Kavanaugh while insisting that he would not vote to overturn Roe over objections from Democratic senators and abortion-rights activists. After he did in June, the Maine senator accused him of misleading her on the issue.

The senator introduced a similar measure in February alongside Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, that would codify Roe’s protections. The Kaine bill is a slightly expanded version that adds some bipartisan support, but it is unclear whether Schumer will bring it to a vote.

Abortion-rights groups that have aligned with Collins in the past on the issue but mobilized against her after the Kavanaugh vote have criticized these pushes, saying they mean nothing if senators do not agree to dump the filibuster.

“Unless these senators are willing to end the filibuster to pass this measure, there’s no reason to take it seriously,” Mini Timmaraju, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...