Republican Sen. Susan Collins – who cast one of the decisive votes in favor of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation – told reporters on Monday that she feels “vindication” after Kavanaugh voted in a case related to Planned Parenthood.
“I certainly do” feel vindicated Collins, who supports abortion rights, told reporters gathered on Capitol Hill.
The Maine senator was referring to the fact that earlier in the day – over the dissent of conservatives Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch – the court decided not to take up two cases brought by Kansas and Louisiana concerning defunding Planned Parenthood.
At issue was whether the states could terminate Medicaid contracts with Planned Parenthood affiliates who offer preventive care – like cancer screening and birth control – to low-income women.
Lower courts ruled against Kansas and Louisiana, handing a victory to Planned Parenthood.
Had Kavanaugh or Chief Justice John Roberts cast their vote with their conservative colleagues, the lower court opinions would have been reviewed and the issue would have been added to the Court’s docket.
But progressives who opposed Kavanaugh and support abortion rights say Collins’ confidence is misplaced.
“Sen. Collins is wrong to think that Kavanaugh’s vote on Monday signals any support whatsoever for Roe v. Wade,” said Elizabeth Wydra, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center.
Wydra noted that in fact the case did not touch squarely on woman’s access to abortion.
To be sure, the Supreme Court’s order was a victory for Planned Parenthood by virtue of the fact that the Supreme Court decided not to review the lower court opinions that went in the group’s favor.
But it was not – despite Collins’ statements – a verdict on whether Roe v. Wade should be overturned.
Instead, if anything, it was a signal that Kavanaugh may endorse the chief justice’s attempts to lower the court’s profile and dodge hot button topics at a contentious time, especially after Kavanaugh’s explosive confirmation hearings.
“The case had nothing to do with abortion, Kavanaugh’s apparent vote not to hear this particular case does nothing to vindicate Sen. Collins vote for Justice Kavanaugh,” Wydra said. “Sen. Collins’ should not breath a sigh of relief until Kavanaugh squarely votes to support Roe,” she added.
For his part, Thomas, joined by Gorsuch and Alito, took the unusual step of calling out his colleagues for declining to take up the case.
He suggested they had avoided the case because it involved Planned Parenthood and its services.
“These cases are not about abortion rights,” Thomas wrote.
They only concern “the rights of individual Medicaid patients to bring their own suits,” he said.
Thomas was deeply critical of his colleagues and said that a “tenuous connection” to a “politically fraught issue,” does not justify “abdicating our judicial duty.”