In a long speech on the Senate floor Friday afternoon, Senator Susan Collins said she believes that Brett Kavanaugh would not vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and subsequent cases that have reaffirmed it if such an opportunity were to come before him on the Supreme Court. The Maine Republican has been closely watched as a potential swing voter, largely because she supports abortion rights: In July, she told CNN that she would not support a nominee who “demonstrated hostility” toward Roe v. Wade, the decision that established the constitutional right to abortion.
When she spoke privately with Kavanaugh, she said in her floor speech, he assured her that “decisions become part of our legal framework with the passage of time, and that honoring precedent is essential to maintaining public confidence.” The senator may truly believe that a Justice Kavanaugh would not vote to abridge abortion rights, or she may be covering her bases with her largely pro-choice constituency in Maine. But her bet on Kavanaugh will almost surely be tested in short order as advocacy groups continue to push abortion-related cases toward the high court.
Collins’s defense of Kavanaugh rested on the conviction that he is a moderate. Supporters of abortion rights have argued that Donald Trump nominated Kavanaugh explicitly so that he will overturn Roe; the president has repeatedly said as much. But Collins argued that Republican presidents have been promising to obliterate Roe for decades, and so far, abortion rights remain intact. She pointed to Sandra Day O’Connor, David Souter, and Anthony Kennedy: All three were nominated by Republican presidents, and all three voted to uphold the right to abortion in the pivotal 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In fact, they were the opinion’s co-authors.