Republican Sen. Susan Collins, a supporter of abortion rights who cast a critical vote to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh, said in an interview with CNN that despite his vote in a recent abortion access case, she did not believe Kavanaugh would ultimately vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“I have always been concerned about preserving Roe v. Wade” Collins said Monday, adding that Kavanaugh had given her assurances during his confirmation process that the landmark opinion was safe.
“He said under oath many times, as well as to me personally many times, that he considers Roe to be ‘precedent upon precedent’ because it had been reaffirmed in the Casey v Planned Parenthood case,” Collins added, dismissing any criticism of her as partisan politics.
Her comments came after Kavanaugh dissented last Thursday from the court’s decision to put a Louisiana law on hold pending appeal. The law, similar to one in Texas that the court previously struck down, would require abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges in a nearby hospital, something critics say would severely limit access to abortions.
Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court’s four liberals to block the law, while Kavanaugh, Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito would have allowed it to go into effect.
In his dissent, Kavanaugh argued the move to block the law was premature. He noted that Louisiana had said that if the law were to go into effect, the state would commence a 45-day review to see how it would impact existing clinics. No provider, the state promised, would be forced to immediately suspend abortion services. After 45 days, he wrote, if the challengers still felt the law imposed an undue burden, they could bring their challenge at that time.
Collins said she does not believe Roe is in jeopardy, but can’t predict how Kavanaugh would vote in every single case.
“To say that this case, this most recent case, in which he wrote a very careful dissent, tells you that he’s going to repeal Roe v Wade I think is absurd,” she said.
Collins’ comments reflect that she had been carefully watching the case and had studied Kavanaugh’s opinion. She noted that in his dissent Kavanaugh nodded to the 2016 Supreme Court decision – called Whole Woman’s Health – where the court struck down the Texas statute.
“He went out of his way to do a written dissent in which he very clearly says that he recognizes Whole Woman’s Health as the precedent,” Collins said. “I think there is a deliberate misreading of what he actually wrote, or people have just assumed and not read the decision.”
Collins has also defended her Kavanaugh vote after he sided with Roberts and liberals not to take up two cases brought by Kansas and Louisiana concerning defunding Planned Parenthood.
Critics of Kavanaugh say that even though he testified that Roe v. Wade was precedent, it doesn’t mean he couldn’t later vote to either overrule it or cut back on its holding.
“The only person who believed Kavanaugh’s testimony on Roe was Susan Collins and her defense of him is already falling apart at the seams,” said Christopher Kang , chief counsel of Demand Justice, a group that opposed Kavanaugh.
“President Trump promised Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe, and it’s clear from Kavanaugh’s vote last week that he is eager to fulfill Trump’s promise,” Kang said.
Kang’s group recently launched a digital ad in Collins’ home state of Maine.
“Collins promised to protect women’s rights. It was all a sham. We won’t forget” the ad says.
Collins dismissed the attacks as par for the course.
“The Democrats are constantly hitting me, five emails a week they are criticizing me on something,” she said. “If it isn’t Justice Kavanaugh, it’s going to be something else.”