US senator Susan Collins sought to reassure the public that Brett Kavanaugh would not overturn Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that protects abortion rights, as she announced she would cast a key vote to confirm him as a Supreme Court justice.
The Maine senator, a pro-choice Republican, argued in a speech before the Senate today that Kavanaugh is deeply committed to preserving the precedent of previous court decisions. Abortion rights have been protected by the Supreme Court since Roe v. Wade (1973) and were upheld in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992).
“To my knowledge, Judge Kavanaugh is the first Supreme Court nominee to express the view that precedent is not only a practice and a tradition, but rooted in Article 3 of our constitution itself,” she told the Senate.
Collins did not mention that, when serving as a White House lawyer in the Bush administration, Kavanaugh advised against calling Roe the “settled law of the land.” Nor did she acknowledge that Kavanaugh has called the 1954 decision to overturn precedent in Brown v. Board of Education the “single greatest moment in Supreme Court history.” However, she called that case a “rare and extraordinary” occasion where the precedent was either “grievously wrong or deeply inconsistent with the law.”
Collins sought to quell worries that Kavanaugh’s addition to the Supreme would create a majority of five justices (out of nine) who oppose abortion. “When I asked him, ‘Would it be sufficient to overturn long established precedent if five current justices believed that it was wrongly decided, he emphatically said, ‘No,'” Collins said. In Brown v. Board, all nine justices voted to overturn the previous decision.
Referencing pro-choice groups’ vehement opposition to Kavanaugh, Collins pointed out that activists opposed the nomination of former justice David Souter on the same grounds—only for him to back Planned Parenthood v. Casey two years later. “Suffice to say, prominent advocacy organizations have been wrong,” she said.
Collins’s speech was quickly followed by the announcement of another “yes” vote from West Virginia senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat. The two all but guarantee that Kavanaugh will be confirmed when the Senate votes tomorrow, Oct. 6.