Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was extremely confident ahead of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s 2018 confirmation that he wouldn’t vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.
On Friday, he did just that.
In his concurring opinion dismantling the half-century-old precedent that protected abortion rights, Kavanaugh wrote that “a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in American history and tradition.”
Explaining his decision to overturn a long-standing precedent, Kavanaugh added, “Adherence to precedent is the norm, and stare decisis imposes a high bar before this Court may overrule a precedent. This Court’s history shows, however, that stare decisis is not absolute, and indeed cannot be absolute.”
Stare decisis, which means “to stand by things decided” in Latin, is a legal principle that favors leaving past rulings intact.
Democrats and reproductive groups repeatedly warned that Kavanaugh, a long-time conservative lawyer, represented a fundamental threat to abortion rights after he was nominated by President Donald Trump, who had vowed to appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. But Collins, a supporter of abortion rights, waved off those concerns. She said that Kavanaugh had assured her that Roe was settled law.
“To my knowledge, Judge Kavanaugh is the first Supreme Court nominee to express the view that precedent is not merely a practice and tradition, but rooted in Article III of our Constitution itself,” Collins said in a fiery Oct. 2018 speech on the Senate floor. “He said decisions become part of our legal framework with the passage of time and that honoring precedent is essential to maintaining public confidence.”
She added: “In his testimony, he noted repeatedly that Roe had been upheld by Planned Parenthood v. Casey, describing it as ‘precedent on precedent.’”
Republicans looked past Collins’ assurances that Kavanaugh wouldn’t do the very thing he had been picked by Trump and the conservative legal establishment to do and applauded the senator for her floor speech, which assured his confirmation.
In a statement on Friday, Collins called the Supreme Court’s decision “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.”
She went on to say 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.”
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who also voted for Kavanaugh, similarly suggested he and Justice Neil Gorsuch weren’t honest with the Senate about their views on Roe.
“I trusted Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh when they testified under oath that they also believed Roe v. Wade was settled legal precedent and I am alarmed they chose to reject the stability the ruling has provided for two generations of Americans,” Manchin said in a statement Friday.
A despondent House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was more blunt: “How about those justices coming before the senators and saying that they respected stare decisis, the precedent of the court.”
“Did you hear that? Were they not telling the truth then?” she said Friday.
More on the Supreme Court abortion ruling:
- Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade, dismantling decades-old precedent
- Roe overturned: The fight begins
- Abortion is now illegal in these states
- Liberal justices dissent with "sorrow" for "millions of American women"
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: "We have to fill the streets"
- Clarence Thomas: Cases protecting gay marriage and contraception should be next
- Republicans make it clear they want to ban abortion nationwide
- Donald Trump praises SCOTUS decision
- West Coast states launch a plan to protect out-of-state abortion patients
- Here's how the world is reacting to the end of Roe