In a precedent-setting move with national ramifications, Planned Parenthood has broken decisively with Sen. Collins, and will endorse Rep. Allen's bid to unseat her.
The decision to intervene in the race--coming from the nation's most important and respected pro-choice organization--sounds an urgent warning to pro-choice Collins supporters, admonishing them to take another look at the junior senator's record.
And because Planned Parenthood backed Collins in 2002 (and frequently endorses Republicans) its support for Allen represents a serious, non-partisan challenge to Collins' carefully-cultivated "moderate" image.
The landmark nature of the decision underscores just how far Collins has strayed on abortion, privacy and related issues over the last several years:
--This is the first time Planned Parenthood has backed the challenger to a senator it had previously endorsed.
--This appears to be the first time Planned Parenthood has backed a Senate challenger over an incumbent who identifies as pro-choice.
Of course, in one sense, Planned Parenthood's hand was forced: Sen. Collins has been pro-choice in name only over the last six years.
By casting a critical vote to put Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court (and backing the nominations of other activist, right-wing judges like Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown) she's helped bring Roe v. Wade to the brink of obliteration.
Tellingly, she's never voiced misgivings about her Alito vote, or about his opinion in Gonzales v. Carhart--a verdict which brings us a step closer to a Roe reversal.
(Collins also sided with pro-life forces on the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, a backdoor attempt to undermine Roe. And she refused to join supporters of reproductive freedom in speaking out against a new Bush administration rule that gives health care providers wide latitude to deny services to women on a case by case basis.)
So given Collins' anti-choice record (and Rep. Allen's rock-solid history on reproductive health) Planned Parenthood had little choice.
Nonetheless, it's a watershed development: The organization has drawn a clear line in the sand, putting future Senate and House candidates across the country on notice that it isn't acceptable for elected officials to maintain a rhetorical commitment to reproductive freedom while casting votes that undermine it.
Planned Parenthood is telling wobbly pols that their actions matter, and that it won't hesitate to back challengers of former allies who have abandoned their principles.
Of course, when it comes to the Maine senate race, Susan Collins is banking on Mainers paying more attention to her deceptive branding than her performance in office.
But with the Supreme Court one vote from overturning Roe--and Collins on record supporting nominees who would overturn it and the presidential candidate who has vowed to appoint them--that strategy is starting to look at least a tad shaky.
Planned Parenthood clearly sees the urgency, and appears ready to play the role of truth teller.
Let's hope it tells those truths loudly.