Tuesday . 26 March . 2019
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As Senator Collins Weighs Vote, Maine Women Size Up Blasey and Kavanaugh

Looking at one another, the women marveled at how unusual it was from them to be in a room of people with strong and clashing political views, and yet stay civil even when they disagreed.

Jean Barry, a high school science teacher who opposes abortion rights but said the Supreme Court nomination should be about more than one issue, said of Dr. Blasey: “It’s unfortunate that she didn’t come forward right after it happened.”

Ms. Irwin shot back, “It’s unfortunate that it happened.”

Ms. Barry nonetheless marveled at finding herself in the company of women like Ms. Irwin, who serves as the executive director of the Mabel Wadsworth Center, which offers prenatal and abortion services. “We are pro-life activists, the three of us, and over here is Mabel Wadsworth. To have all of us in a room, that’s pretty awesome,” she said.

Ms. Irwin said she was appalled at the politicization of issues that haunt sexual abuse survivors.

“It was a disservice,” she said. “I was disappointed at all the politicization. I don’t doubt that he’s a good person, a great dad. But I’m sad knowing that there are a lot of survivors listening to this today. It really breaks my heart.”

The conversation turned, as it often has over the past two weeks, to the experiences of sexual abuse and harassment. Sarah Sullivan, who is working to build her own business, said she had to drop a client because of an incident. “I was never a feminist,” she said. “I was kind of conservative. I’m really tired of the boys will be boys thing.”

The women were eager to hear facts, not political score-settling. At one point, when Senator Mazie Hirono, a Hawaii Democrat, was speaking, Abigail Despres, a sophomore at the University of Maine who was sympathetic to Dr. Blasey and formerly interned at Planned Parenthood, broke in, “That’s just for show!”

And when Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, attacked Democrats for partisanship, Ms. Irwin burst out: “What about Merrick Garland?”

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