Collins: Abortion ruling ‘inconsistent’ with what Gorsuch, Kavanaugh told me

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Friday said conservative Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch misled her about their views on the importance of Supreme Court precedent during their confirmation proceedings in 2017 and 2018. 

Collins, who voted to confirm then-President Trump’s first two conservative nominees to the court despite her support for abortion rights, has said she believed those justices would hold up important precedents such as Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion. A court majority that included Kavanaugh and Gorsuch struck down that right on Friday.

“This decision is inconsistent with what Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh said in their testimony and their meetings with me, where they both were insistent on the importance of supporting long-standing precedents that the country has relied upon,” Collins said, explaining her votes for those nominees during the Trump administration.  

Collins joined Democrats Friday in denouncing the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

“The Supreme Court has abandoned a fifty-year precedent at a time that the country is desperate for stability,” she said in a statement. “This ill-considered action will further divide the country at a moment when, more than ever in modern times, we need the Court to show both consistency and restraint.” 

Collins argued that “throwing out a precedent overnight that the country has relied upon for half a century is not conservative.” 

“It is a sudden and radical jolt to the country that will lead to political chaos, anger, and a further loss of confidence in our government,” she said.  

The Maine senator voted against conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination in 2020 because she said the Senate should follow the precedent set by the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s vacancy in 2016 and not confirm a new justice to the high court immediately before a presidential election.  

But Collins voted for Kavanaugh in 2018 and Gorsuch in 2017 despite warnings from pro-abortion rights groups that they would likely vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.  

Collins said in a 2018 CNN interview that she believed Kavanaugh would uphold the landmark abortion rights case out of respect for Supreme Court precedent, known as the doctrine of stare decisis.  

“I do not believe that Brett Kavanaugh will overturn Roe v. Wade,” she told CNN’s Dana Bash.  

When Bash asserted that precedents are overturned all the time, Collins responded: “They aren’t overturned all the time.”  

“He says for a precedent, a long-established like Roe, to be overturned it would have to have been grievously wrong and deeply inconsistent. He noted that Roe had been reaffirmed 19 years later by Planned Parenthood versus Casey and that it was precedent on precedent,” Collins said in the interview. 

“He said it should be extremely rare that it be overturned,” she said, recounting Kavanaugh’s statements during his confirmation proceedings.  

Collins on Friday pointed out that she and fellow moderate Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) have introduced the Reproductive Choice Act to codify abortion rights established by Roe v. Wade and later upheld by Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992.  

“Our goal with this legislation is to do what the Court should have done — provide the consistency in our abortion laws that Americans have relied upon for 50 years,” she said. 

Tags Abortion abortion rights Amy Coney Barrett Brett Kavanaugh Dobbs v. Jackson Donald Trump Neil Gorsuch Precedent SCOTUS Supreme Court Susan Collins

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