Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) says she won’t comment on a major Supreme Court case challenging the landmark abortion rights ruling Roe v. Wade until a decision is reached, likely until next summer.
“I’m going to wait until the decision is rendered,” Collins told HuffPost.
“I’m for Roe,” is all she said when asked if she worried for its future.
The Supreme Court appeared poised to undo the 1973 ruling during oral arguments Wednesday in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which concerns a 2018 Mississippi law that seeks to ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. A majority of justices seemed open to at least placing limits on abortion, which would effectively overturn Roe as it stands now.
Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh pointed to other landmark cases from the court’s history in which the court overturned prior precedents, such as Brown v. Board of Education. If the court had simply followed precedent in those cases, Kavanaugh said, “the country would be a much different place.”
Kavanaugh also suggested during arguments that the Supreme Court could remain neutral on abortion and leave the issue up to the states. Several GOP-controlled states have already passed constitutional amendments that would immediately outlaw abortion if the Supreme Court undoes Roe v. Wade.
Collins cleared the way for Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court in 2018. The senator, a supporter of abortion rights, said at the time that Kavanaugh assured that he believed in the concept of stare decisis, or adhering to precedent, and that he viewed Roe v. Wade as “settled law.”
“When I asked him would it be sufficient to overturn a long-established precedent if five current justices believed that it was wrongly decided, he emphatically said ‘no,’” Collins said in a floor speech in 2018.
What Supreme Court justices say during oral arguments can often signal how they intend to rule on a particular issue. But surprises can still happen. Justices often engage in behind-the-scenes lobbying after oral arguments take place, shifting back and forth between positions, as Chief Justice John Roberts did in 2012 before ultimately saving the Affordable Care Act from being struck down.
However, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court is bigger now than in 2012. Since then, Republicans have stacked the court with three more Federalist Society-approved justices, including Kavanaugh. Even if Roberts ultimately sides with the three liberals on the court, it may not be enough to save Roe, prompting heightened fears among abortion-rights supporters that the ruling may already be toast.