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Maine Community Leaders Urge Senators Collins and King to Oppose Kyle Duncan’s Nomination

February 15, 2018

Remarks by Andrea Irwin, Executive Director

Mabel Wadsworth Center is an independent abortion provider located in Bangor, and we see clients from as far north as Canada and across Maine. Nearly half of our clients rely on MaineCare (Medicaid) for their health coverage and many others are uninsured and low income. Some of our clients from more rural communities must travel hundreds of miles, often having to manage missing work or school, arranging childcare, and finding gas money, to get here for needed abortion care. We see clients every day whose lives would be harmed if Kyle Duncan is confirmed, and we strongly oppose his nomination.

Kyle Duncan has actively opposed basic reproductive rights; he supported Texas laws that shut down nearly half the state’s abortion clinics. In 2016, in Whole Woman’s Health, the most important case since Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court found that these laws were clearly unconstitutional. They were not medically necessary and in fact decreased patient safety – by increasing the number of unsafe, self-administered abortions.

The anti-abortion movement has been laser-focused on closing clinics. The Texas laws and many others, known as TRAP laws, or “Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers” are clinic shutdown laws pushed by politicians, not doctors, under the guise of “patient safety.” Politically motivated legislators in Maine failed to pass a TRAP law in 2015, a law that would have had a detrimental impact on our clinic and our ability to serve our community.

Kyle Duncan even co-authored an amicus brief in Whole Woman’s Health, relying on junk science to argue that prescribed hallway widths and full operating suites were needed to ensure “patient safety”.  I, too, played a role in that case and signed on to an amicus brief supporting abortion access  – as one of 113 lawyers who had abortions and were able to achieve educational and professional advancement as a result. The 2016 Supreme Court rightly put a stop to the growing tide of these politically-motivated sham laws that undermine the rule of law and distort the reasonable standards established by the Court to protect every woman’s constitutional rights.

If, however, the Supreme Court had relied on Kyle Duncan’s arguments, women’s health would be gravely threatened. For example, a woman in El Paso would have to drive more than 500 miles—or 7.5 hours— roundtrip to San Antonio to get abortion care in her home state.

The clinic closures also caused women in Dallas, the state’s third largest city, to face delays as long as 20 days for their initial consultation for an abortion—up from an average of five days in 2013. This forced more women to delay their care into the second trimester – making it both less safe and more expensive.

These laws create higher costs, longer delays, and extra steps for women seeking abortion care, and in the process punish women for their decision to exercise their constitutional right to end a pregnancy. The only people who should be making decisions that impact women’s health and lives are women themselves and their healthcare providers— not politicians or judges. Regardless of how we feel about abortion, none of us, including Kyle Duncan, can stand in another person’s shoes and understand the circumstances and realities of their lives.

Duncan also has a problematic record with respect to putting the rights of private corporations and pharmacists over patients who need birth control.

  • Duncan served as lead counsel in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, where he argued that for-profit corporations should be able to deny birth control coverage to their employees on religious grounds. In the case, he criticized the idea that birth control is “necessary for ‘the good life,’ health and economic success of society, particularly women.” Because of the Court’s ruling in the case, countless women do not have access to basic healthcare.
  • Duncan fought a Washington state law that required pharmacists to stock the drugs needed “to meet the pharmaceutical needs of its patients,” including birth control. The Ninth Circuit upheld the law, and the Supreme Court refused to hear the case. If Duncan had been successful, women’s access to birth control could have been restricted if they lived in an area where pharmacies refused to stock such products.

We ask Senators Collins and King to oppose his confirmation and commit to holding all judicial nominees to a standard of following precedent and protecting our constitutional rights.

Listen to the full press conference with remarks from Quinn Gormley, Executive Director of MaineTransNet, Laverne Thompson, and Eliza Townsend, Executive Director of the Maine Women’s Lobby.