Days after the Supreme Court upheld Roe v. Wade in a close five-to-four decision in mid-1992, then-Attorney General William Barr predicted on CNN that the decision would be overturned.
“I think that Roe v. Wade will ultimately be overturned,” Barr said on CNN’s “Evans & Novak.” “I think it’ll fall of its own weight. It does not have any constitutional underpinnings.”
Barr, who was nominated by President Donald Trump to be attorney general last month, boiled down the fate of Roe v. Wade to future appointments to the Supreme Court.
“Over time, I think, and with further appointments to the Supreme Court, I think that the Roe v. Wade opinion will fall,” Barr said in the interview, which aired July 4, 1992.
In late June, the court had upheld Roe in its Planned Parenthood v Casey decision authored by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a Ronald Reagan appointee. Two other Republican appointees, Justices Anthony Kennedy and David Souter, had also voted to uphold Roe.
Barr called them “so-called moderate justices.”
“I think they were wrong to do it,” Barr said. “I think they should have stuck with the Constitution.”
Barr is scheduled to testify at his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing next week.
In the CNN interview, he pledged to continue calling for the decision’s overturning.
“I think this department will continue to do what it’s done for the past 10 years and call for the overturning of Roe v. Wade in future litigation,” Barr said, because “well, the vote was worse than five to four several years ago, and we continued to go back to the Court. And I think the defects of the current decision will become more and more evident over time.”
Even though Barr expressed a belief that the justices appointed to the Supreme Court would affect the future of Roe v. Wade, he did affirm ultimately “we don’t select judges to decide one specific case” when making Supreme Court appointments.
This was not the first time Barr had spoken out against Roe v. Wade.
During his confirmation hearings in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in November 1991, Barr spoke out about his anti-abortion position for the first time.
“I haven’t take a position on it publicly, I don’t believe” Barr began. “I do not believe the right to privacy extends to abortion, so I think that my views are consistent with the views that have been taken by the department since 1983, which is that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overruled.”
In response to Barr’s comments, then-Senate Judiciary Chairman Joe Biden complimented Barr for his candidness.
“You’ve given the first candid answer anyone has given on Roe v. Wade that I can remember in God knows how many years,” Biden said. “I disagree with your view, but it is – it’s astounding to me, and you’re to be complimented. Thank you for being candid with us.”
In the CNN interview, Barr advocated for state legislatures to be able to place restrictions on abortion.
Agreeing with Justice Antonin Scalia, who was one of the justices voting in the minority in this case, Barr said, “I agree with the sentiment that the Supreme Court should not be the referee in this area. This is a decision that should be left to the state.”
Since leaving the Justice Department, Barr’s position has not changed at least since 2001.
During an interview with UVA’s Miller Center of Public Affairs Barr said, “I’m anti-abortion myself.”
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect Roe v Wade's status as a Supreme Court decision.