Supreme Court abortion hearing raises questions for senators


During his confirmation with Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh convinced Sen. Susan Collins that he considers women’s right to abortion a “settled law”, calling the courts’ assertions “precedent upon precedent” that cannot be overturned by chance.

Amy Coney Barrett told the senators in her time Senate confirmed at hearing that the law could not be undone simply by personal convictions, including her own. “That’s not Amy’s rule,” she quipped.

But during this week’s landmark Supreme Court hearing on a Mississippi law that could curtail if not completely end women’s right to abortion, the two newest judges took a different tone. distinctly different, raising questionable streams seen by many as part of the court’s decades-old willingness to annul. old decisions about access to abortion services.

The disconnect is raising new questions about the nature, purpose, and stage of the Senate confirmation process, which some say has been so badly disrupted. And it is creating a difficult politics for Collins and another abortion-rights Senate Republican, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, as the nation faces the possibility of unraveling the law.

“I support Roe,” Collins said as she ducked into the elevator shortly after Wednesday’s arguments in court. Maine Republicans voted to confirm Kavanaugh but objected to Barrett’s nomination being too close to the 2020 presidential election.

Murkowski declined an interview in the hallway on Thursday at the Capitol and made no further public comment. She opposes Kavanaugh and supports Barrett, both nominated among the narrowest confirmed in the split Senate.

A court ruling on the Mississippi case may not be announced until June, but the failure of arguments this week is raising concerns that the judiciary, like the nation’s other civic organizations , is becoming deeply politicized, and Congress – specifically the Senate – must do a better job in its constitutional role to advise and agree on presidential candidates.

“It’s not that the senators were naive and trusted too much,” said Neil Siegel, a law professor at Duke University who has served as a special adviser to Senate Democrats. “I think the main problem is that we are deeply polarized and the Constitution makes the nomination and confirmation of federal judges, including judges, a political process.”

Confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee are stressful, hour-long sessions that often span days as one senator after another examines candidates members of the president on their approach to the law.

Kavanaugh’s hearing in 2018 exploded amid stunning allegations that he sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford when they were teenagers at a house party decades ago, claims he vehemently denied.

Abortion debates have been at the heart of confirmation hearings, but senators began to gather when Republican Donald Trump nominated three conservative judges during his presidency, likely to steer the nine-member court away from centrists and libertarians.

Suddenly, what had been long debated about the legal precedents set by the landmark cases Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey became a very real question for American women as the party The Republic achieved its long-sought goal of eliminating access to abortion.

Kavanaugh repeatedly told senators under Democratic and Republican control that women’s abortion rights were asserted.

He told Senator Lindsey Graham, RS.C.

As for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Kavanaugh stressed the “importance of precedent” under previous court rulings and that “women have a constitutional right to abortion before viability exists. at,” referring to the current 24-week pregnancy question under Mississippi law, which would reduce this threshold to 15 weeks.

He won over Collins, who was not on the panel, after his assurances during the two-hour meeting.

However, during this week’s trial, Kavanaugh read from a long list of cases that have upset past precedents and questioned why courts can’t now do the same with abortion. .

“If you think about some of the most important cases, the most consequential cases in the history of this court, there’s a string of them where the cases are beyond precedent,” he said.

Kavanaugh said during the hearing that the abortion debate is “tough” and perhaps the courts should leave it up to the states to decide – essentially ending federal protections.

The senators said judges could simply submit a line of questions, forcing state and federal government attorneys to respond, rather than reflecting on their reading of the law.

But Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who had tense exchanges with Kavanaugh and Coney Barrett in the confirmation battles – and voted against both – said what she heard. from the court is about what she expected.

“I’m not surprised at all,” Klobuchar said.

Barrett has told the senators that Roe v. Wade does not fall into the category of “super precedent,” described by legal scholars as cases that have been settled so well that there are no calls for a review. they.

However, as a conservative Christian, she insists her own views play no role. “It’s not Amy’s law,” she told the senators. “It’s American law.”

This week, Barrett urged attorneys to explain why women can’t simply give up babies for adoption, as safe haven laws already exist in the states. “Why don’t you address the safe haven laws and why don’t they matter?”

Asked about the disconnect between the Senate hearings and the court arguments, Senator Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and now Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, acknowledged the hearings. limited ceiling, but refused to rule until the court made a ruling.

Perhaps it wasn’t since Ruth Bader Ginsburg told senators during her own confirmation hearing in 1993 that the decision to have children was “at the heart of a woman’s rights, her dignity.” the nominees were one-sided in their views. The standard now is that nominees keep their views private.

“We can’t ask for sworn affidavits,” Durbin said. “My belief is that people and their life experiences are more predictive of the outcome of future cases than any statement they make to the committee.”

Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas, a former judge, denied the discrepancy between what was said during the committee hearings as a fact of life in politics.

“I’ve seen too many confirmation transitions where people are basically denying the things they’ve done and said in the past to get confirmed, but once we’ve got someone confirmed, it’s basically There’s nothing we can do about it.” Cornyn, who voted to endorse both Kavanaugh and Barrett.

“I don’t think they’re a spoof,” he said. “I think there were helpful discussions but obviously there were no consequences regarding voting in a way other than what you said in the hearing.”


Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report. Supreme Court abortion hearing raises questions for senators


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