Refinery 29: Sara Gideon Is The Politician Leading The Charge On Reproductive Rights
By Brianna Provenzano
Planned Parenthood’s political arm has officially backed a new candidate for the 2020 senate race: Democratic Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon.
This bold move also effectively withdraws the organization's support from the embattled U.S. Sen. Susan Collins ahead of what’s sure to be a contentious election.
But, Gideon is proving to be a force for reproductive rights in the U.S., and perhaps someone that the company is willing to invest in.
Gideon, who currently serves as Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, has consistently supported efforts to expand Medicaid in the state, and has been a staunch advocate for increasing access to reproductive healthcare and lowering the costs of prescription drugs.
Under Gideon's stewardship, the Maine House adopted a package of six laws meant to enshrine reproductive rights in the state in 2019, including two that expanded access to abortion and one that would allow the sale of emergency contraceptives in vending machines.
In a press release on Tuesday, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, “the reproductive health care organization’s political action committee, explained why Gideon is getting their 2020 endorsement. "As speaker of the Maine House, Sara has been leading the charge for reproductive health care access in Maine,” the press release stated.
Although the group had backed Collins during her 2002 reelection campaign, and also honored her with its Barry Goldwater Award in 2017 for being a Republican lawmaker who prioritized reproductive health care issues, its support faltered after Collins famously voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in 2018, despite his history of anti-abortion bias and the litany of sexual assault allegations he faced.
“From her decisive vote to confirm Kavanaugh to her refusal to stop Republican attacks on our health and rights, it’s clear that she has turned her back on those she should be championing,” PPAF acting President and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson said in the statement. “[Collins] has abandoned not only the people of Maine, but women across the country.”
McGill Johnson added that Gideon is “an outspoken leader for the women, LGBTQ communities, and people of color of Maine, and for sexual reproductive health and rights.”
Planned Parenthood isn’t the only group upset with Collins over her vote to confirm Kavanaugh: the decision incited outrage among her constituency and sparked a large-scale protest to crowdfund the campaign for her eventual progressive challenger. To date, that campaign has raised nearly $4 million for Collins’ future opponent.
“Senator, your deciding vote was a rubber-stamp for Trump’s anti-healthcare, anti-woman, anti-environment and anti-labor agenda,” the website for the petition reads. “For failing to stand up for the people of Maine and ignoring the voices of your constituents, and for endangering the lives of millions of Americans, we will work to elect a new senator to represent the State of Maine.”
While the Maine Senate race is currently a crowded field, with at least eight other candidates vying to unseat Collins, Gideon has shored up crucial support among the nation’s leading reproductive health groups, including EMILY’s List and NARAL Pro-Choice America.
“I’m honored to receive [PPAF’s] endorsement ― in the face of attacks on reproductive rights across the country and threats to Roe v. Wade in Washington, there’s never been a more important time to stand up for reproductive rights,” Gideon tweeted on Tuesday.