What GOP-named justices had said about Roe to Senate panel

Jun 24, 2022, 9:48 PM | Updated: Jun 25, 2022, 9:58 am
FILE - Members of the Supreme Court pose for a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, Apri...

FILE - Members of the Supreme Court pose for a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, April 23, 2021. Seated from left are Associate Justice Samuel Alito, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Standing from left are Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Associate Justice Elena Kagan, Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch and Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years — a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court's landmark abortion cases. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool, File)

(Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool, File)

              FILE - In this April 23, 2021, file photo Chief Justice John Roberts sits during a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years — a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court's landmark abortion cases.(Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool, File)
            
              FILE - Members of the Supreme Court pose for a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, April 23, 2021. Seated from left are Associate Justice Samuel Alito, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Standing from left are Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Associate Justice Elena Kagan, Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch and Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years — a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court's landmark abortion cases. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool, File)
            
              FILE - Associate Justice Clarence Thomas sits during a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, April 23, 2021. The Supreme Court's sweeping rulings on guns and abortion were the latest and perhaps clearest manifestation of how the court has evolved over the past six years, a product of historical accident and Republican political brute force, from an institution that leaned right, but produced some notable liberal victories, to one with an aggressive, 6-3 conservative majority. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool)
            
              FILE - Associate Justice Samuel Alito sits during a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, April 23, 2021. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years — a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court's landmark abortion cases. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The nine justices of the Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling Friday, made clear their views on abortion, with the conservative majority overturning the Roe v. Wade decision from 1973 and stripping away women’s constitutional protections for abortion.

The vote was 6-3 to uphold Mississippi’s law banning most abortions after 15 weeks, but Chief Justice John Roberts didn’t join his five fellow conservatives in overturning Roe. He wrote that there was no need to overturn the broad precedents to rule in Mississippi’s favor.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote that Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 decision that reaffirmed the right to abortion, were wrong had and to be overturned. Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — the diminished liberal wing of the court — were in dissent.

Every high court nominee, in one form or another, was asked during Senate hearings about his or her views of Roe. A look at how the Republican-nominated justices responded over the years when questioned by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee before joining the court:

AMY CONEY BARRETT, 2020:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, then the top Democrat on the committee, asked Barrett: “So the question comes, what happens? Will this justice support a law that has substantial precedent now? Would you commit yourself on whether you would or would not?”

“Senator, what I will commit is that I will obey all the rules of stare decisis,” Barrett replied, referring to the doctrine of courts giving weight to precedent when making their decisions.

Barrett went on to say that she would do that for “any issue that comes up, abortion or anything else. I’ll follow the law.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., asked Barrett whether she viewed Roe v. Wade as a “super precedent.” Barrett replied that the way the term is used in “scholarship” and the way she had used it in an article was to define cases so well settled that people do not seriously push for its overruling.

“And I’m answering a lot of questions about Roe, which I think indicates that Roe doesn’t fall in that category,” Barrett said.

___

BRETT KAVANAUGH, 2018: It was Feinstein who also asked Kavanaugh, “What would you say your position today is on a woman’s right to choose?”

“As a judge, it is an important precedent of the Supreme Court. By ‘it,’ I mean Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. They have been reaffirmed many times. Casey is precedent on precedent, which itself is an important factor to remember,” Kavanaugh said.

Casey was a 1992 decision that reaffirmed a constitutional right to abortion services.

Kavanaugh went on to say that he understood the significance of the issue. “I always try and I do hear of the real world effects of that decision, as I try to do, of all the decisions of my court and of the Supreme Court.”

___

NEIL GORSUCH, 2017:

With President Donald Trump’s first Supreme Court nomination, it was Sen. Charles Grassley. R-Iowa, who asked point-blank: “Can you tell me whether Roe was decided correctly?

Gorsuch replied: “I would tell you that Roe v. Wade, decided in 1973, is a precedent of the U.S. Supreme Court. It has been reaffirmed. The reliance interest considerations are important there, and all of the other factors that go into analyzing precedent have to be considered. It is a precedent of the U.S. Supreme Court. It was reaffirmed in Casey in 1992 and in several other cases. So a good judge will consider it as precedent of the U.S. Supreme Court worthy as treatment of precedent like any other.”

___

ROBERTS, 2005

The late Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., asked of the now-chief justice, who was a federal appeals court judge when nominated: “In your confirmation hearing for circuit court, your testimony read to this effect, and it has been widely quoted: ‘Roe is the settled law of the land.’ Do you mean settled for you, settled only for your capacity as a circuit judge, or settled beyond that?”

Roberts replied: “It’s settled as a precedent of the court, entitled to respect under principles of stare decisis. And those principles, applied in the Casey case, explain when cases should be revisited and when they should not. And it is settled as a precedent of the Court, yes.”

___

ALITO, 2006

Specter, who was unabashedly supportive of Roe v. Wade, observed during Alito’s hearings that the “dominant issue” was the “widespread concern” about Alito’s position on a woman’s right to choose. The issue arose because of a 1985 statement by Alito that the Constitution does not provide for the right to an abortion, Specter declared.

“Do you agree with that statement today, Judge Alito?” Specter asked.

“Well, that was a correct statement of what I thought in 1985 from my vantage point in 1985, and that was as a line attorney in the Department of Justice in the Reagan administration.

“Today if the issue were to come before me, if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed and the issue were to come before me, the first question would be the question that we’ve been discussing, and that’s the issue of stare decisis,” Alito said. “And if the analysis were to get beyond that point, then I would approach the question with an open mind, and I would listen to the arguments that were made.”

“So you would approach it with an open mind notwithstanding your 1985 statement?” Specter asked.

“Absolutely, senator. That was a statement that I made at a prior period of time when I was performing a different role, and as I said yesterday, when someone becomes a judge, you really have to put aside the things that you did as a lawyer at prior points in your legal career and think about legal issues the way a judge thinks about legal issues.”

Alito was the author of the leaked draft opinion, which declares the ruling in Roe v. Wade was “egregiously wrong from the start.”

___

CLARENCE THOMAS, 1991:

The late Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, D-Ohio, recalled chairing a committee hearing and listening to women maimed by “back-alley abortionists.” He said he was “terrified if we turn back the clock on legal abortion services.”

In questioning Thomas the senator said: “I want to ask you once again, of appealing to your sense of compassion, whether or not you believe the Constitution protects a woman’s right to an abortion?”

Thomas replied: “I guess as a kid we heard the hushed whispers about illegal abortions and individuals performing them in less than safe environments, but they were whispers. It would, of course, if a woman is subjected to the agony of an environment like that, on a personal level, certainly, I am very, very pained by that. I think any of us would be.”

Thomas declined though to give his opinion “on the issue, the question that you asked me.”

“I think it would undermine my ability to sit in an impartial way on an important case like that,” he said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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What GOP-named justices had said about Roe to Senate panel