(WASHINGTON) — With the bombshell leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion indicating a reported majority of conservative justices is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade, all eyes were once again on Republican Sen. Susan Collins Tuesday over her support for Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
The draft opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito and not yet final — first reported Monday night by Politico — showed the court is poised to topple the landmark 1973 decision legalizing abortion across the U.S.
In the draft, dated Feb. 10, Alito wrote, “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start.”
Reporters flocked to Collins’ office on Tuesday morning for her reaction, given she cast a vote pivotal to Kavanaugh’s ascension to the court in 2018.
Collins said at the time that Kavanaugh assured her Roe v. Wade was “settled law.”
“If this leaked draft opinion is the final decision and this reporting is accurate, it would be completely inconsistent with what Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh said in their hearings and in our meetings in my office,” Collins, R-Maine, said in a statement Tuesday morning. “Obviously, we won’t know each Justice’s decision and reasoning until the Supreme Court officially announces its opinion in this case.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were more direct, accusing the court’s recently appointed conservative justices of deceiving lawmakers about their views on Roe v. Wade.
“Several of these conservative Justices, who are in no way accountable to the American people, have lied to the U.S. Senate, ripped up the Constitution and defiled both precedent and the Supreme Court’s reputation — all at the expense of tens of millions of women who could soon be stripped of their bodily autonomy and the constitutional rights they’ve relied on for half a century,” Schumer and Pelosi said in a joint statement Monday night.
At his Senate confirmation hearings in September 2018, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee pushed Kavanaugh on what his then-current position on Roe v. Wade was — in light of a reported 2003 email he wrote as a lawyer in the Bush White House challenging that the landmark decision was the “settled law of the land.”
“As a general proposition I understand the importance of the precedent set forth in Roe v. Wade,” Kavanaugh told senators.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.: “What would you say your position is today on a woman’s right to choose?”
“As a judge it is an important precedent of the Supreme Court,” he replied. “By ‘it,’ I mean Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, been affirmed many times. Casey is precedent on precedent.”
At confirmation hearings for Neil Gorsuch in March 2017, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois pressed him for his views on abortion, using what he wrote in a book he authored on euthanasia. In the book, he wrote that “the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”
“The Supreme Court of the United States has held that Roe v. Wade, that a fetus is not a person for purposes of the 14th Amendment. And the book explains that,” Gorsuch testified.
“Do you accept that?” Durbin asked.
“That’s the law of the land, I accept the law of the land, senator, yes,” Gorsuch answered.
Schumer, speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday morning, vowed to hold a vote on codifying abortion rights, although the path forward for Democrats on the issue remains limited due to not having enough vote overcome a filibuster.
The House of Representatives passed the Women’s Health Protection Act to codify abortion rights in September 2021 but the bill has failed to move forward in the Senate.
“A vote on this legislation is not an abstract exercise,” Schumer said. “This is as urgent and real as it gets. We will vote to protect a woman’s right to choose and every American is going to see which side every Senator stands.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a Republican who is a leading abortion rights moderate, excoriated the leak, calling it “absolutely reprehensible,” but added, “If it goes in the direction that this leaked copy has indicated, I will just tell you that it it it rocks my confidence in the court right now.”
The senator batted away questions about whether she would support ending the Senate’s filibuster in order to codify Roe, legislation she has sponsored, but she didn’t rule it out, saying only, “I’m not going to talk about the filibuster.”
Asked directly if previous conservative nominees like Kavanaugh had lied to her when they affirmed that Roe is “settled law,” Murkowski repeated that the draft opinion has “rocked my confidence in the court.”
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