WASHINGTON (AP) — One way or another, every Supreme Court nominee is asked during Senate hearings about his or her opinion on the Roe v. Wade ruling on abortion rights that has held up for half a century.
Now, a draft opinion from Politico suggests a majority of the court is willing to overturn the landmark 1973 decision and leave it to states to determine whether a woman is capable of having an abortion.
A look at how the Republican-nominated judges, now a 6-3 majority, reacted when members of the Senate Judiciary Committee asked for their opinions on the case:
AMY CONEY BARRETT, 2020:
sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, then the top Democrat on the committee, asked Barrett, “So the question comes, what happens? Will this justice support a law that now has significant precedent? Would you commit to yourself whether or not you would to do?’
“Senator, what I will promise is that I will obey all the rules of stare decisis,” replied Barrett, referring to the doctrine of courts setting precedent in making their decisions.
Barrett went on to say she would do that for “any problem that arises, abortion or anything else. I will follow the law.”
sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., asked Barrett if she considered Roe v. Wade a “super precedent.” Barrett replied that the way the term is used in “stock exchange” and the way she’d used it in an article was to define things so well regulated that people don’t seriously push for its overruling.
“And I answer a lot of questions about Roe, which I think indicates that Roe doesn’t fall into that category,” Barrett said.
BRETT KAVANAUGH, 2018: It was Feinstein who also asked Kavanaugh, “What would you say your position is today regarding a woman’s right to choose?”
“As a judge, it is an important precedent for the Supreme Court. By “it” I mean Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. They have been reconfirmed many times. Casey is precedent upon precedent, which in itself is an important factor to remember,” Kavanaugh said.
Casey was a 1992 decision that reaffirmed a constitutional right to abortion services.
Kavanaugh went on to say he understood the importance of the issue. “I always try and I hear of the real world effects of that decision, as I am trying to do, of all the decisions of my court and of the Supreme Court.”
NEIL GORSUCH, 2017:
With President Donald Trump’s first nomination to the Supreme Court, it was Senator Charles Grassley. R-Iowa, who asked bluntly, “Can you tell me if Roe was correctly decided?
Gorsuch replied, “I would like to tell you that Roe v. Wade, ruled in 1973, sets a precedent for the US Supreme Court. It has been reconfirmed. The trust interest considerations are important there, and all other factors involved in analyzing precedents must be considered. It is a US Supreme Court precedent. It was reconfirmed in Casey in 1992 and in several other cases. So a good judge will consider it a U.S. Supreme Court precedent worthy of treating a precedent like any other.”
JOHN ROBERTS, 2005
The late Senator Arlen Specter, R-Pa., asked the now Chief Justice, who was a federal appeals court judge when he was nominated, widely quoted, “Ree is the standing law of the land.” Do you mean a settlement for you, just a settlement for your capacity as a circuit judge, or a settlement outside of it?’
Roberts replied: “It is settled as a precedent of the court, which is entitled to respect according to the principles of stare decisis. And those principles, applied in the Casey case, explain when things should be reconsidered and when not. And it’s settled as a Court precedent, yes.”
SAMUEL ALITO, 2006
Specter, who unabashedly supported Roe v. Wade, noted during Alito’s hearings that the “dominant issue” was the “widespread concern” about Alito’s stance on a woman’s right to choose. The issue arose over a 1985 statement by Alito that the constitution does not provide for the right to abortion, Specter said.
“Do you agree with that statement today, Judge Alito?” asked Spectre.
“Well, that was a fair statement of what I thought in 1985 from my 1985 standpoint, and that was as a Justice Department attorney in the Reagan administration.
“If the matter came to me today, if I’m lucky enough to be confirmed and the matter came to me, the first question would be the question we discussed, and that’s the question of stare decisis,” said Alito: “And if the analysis went beyond that point, I would approach the question with an open mind and listen to the arguments that were made.”
“So you would approach it with an open mind, despite your 1985 statement?” Specter asked.
“Absolutely, Senator. That was a statement I made before when I was in a different role, and like I said yesterday, when someone becomes a judge, you really have to put aside the things you’ve done as a lawyer at previous points in your legal career and think about legal issues the way a judge thinks about legal issues.”
Alito was the author of the leaked draft opinion, stating that the ruling in Roe v. Wade was “blatantly wrong from the outset.”
CLARENCE THOMAS, 1991:
The late Senator Howard Metzenbaum, D-Ohio, recalled chairing a committee that heard and listened to women mutilated by “abortion abortionists.” He said he was “terrified if we turn back the clock on legal abortion services.”
When questioning Thomas, the senator said, “I want to ask you again, to appeal to your compassion, whether you believe the Constitution protects a woman’s right to abortion?”
Thomas replied: “I think as children we heard the muffled whispers about illegal abortions and individuals performing them in less than safe environments, but it was whispers. Of course, when a woman is subjected to the pain of such an environment, on a personal level, it naturally hurts me very, very much. I think any of us would be.”
Thomas, however, declined to give his opinion “on the matter, the question you asked me”.
“I think it would undermine my ability to be impartial in such an important case,” he said.
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