A leaked document suggests the U.S. Supreme Court could overturn Roe v. Wade in the coming months, a move that would run contrary to assurances given by Sen. Susan Collins during and after judicial confirmations under former President Donald Trump.
Politico reported late Monday evening that a draft majority opinion by Justice Samuel Alito suggests the high court is poised to strike down the landmark 1973 law that protects right to an abortion. Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed that the draft was authentic on Tuesday, although he said it did not necessarily represent justices’ final opinions.
Overturning Roe v. Wade would have wide-ranging implications for abortion access in much of the U.S. It also could have political ramifications for Collins, as Maine’s senior senator has been one of a few Republicans to express support for abortion rights during her career and — facing scrutinity over her judicial votes — affirmed that she did not think the current court would overturn the decision, saying it was something people had “relied on.”
In a statement Tuesday morning, Collins noted that the public would not know each justice’s decision and reasoning until the Supreme Court officially announces its opinion. But she also seemed to lay blame on Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, both of whom she voted to confirm to the high court.
“If this leaked draft opinion is the final decision and this reporting is accurate, it would be completely inconsistent with what Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh said in their hearings and in our meetings in my office,” Collins said.
The Maine senator voted to confirm both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh despite concerns from reproductive rights advocates, who argued the pair would rule against abortion rights. After meeting with Kavanaugh, she said he had assured her he viewed Roe v. Wade as “settled.”
In 2017, she received an award from Planned Parenthood, with the group citing her “incredible work … in fighting to protect women’s access to reproductive health care.” The group in 2020 backed her Democratic opponent, former Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, after the Kavanaugh vote.
Collins later voted against confirming Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the court in the fall of 2020, although she cited procedural concerns due to the proximity of the presidential election, and never weighed in on Barrett’s qualifications or judicial philosophy. Barrett’s confirmation further tilted the balance of the court toward conservatives. She, along with Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, provide the majority needed for the court to overturn Roe v. Wade, Politico’s reporting show.
The Bangor Daily News asked Collins about the potential that the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade, along with the Affordable Care Act, in late October of 2020, the day after Barrett was confirmed to the Supreme Court.
“I know that you’re not supposed to predict how the Supreme Court is going to rule,” Collins began. She noted the principle of severability, saying that if the court found part of the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, they could strike it down without jeopardizing the whole law. The high court upheld the landmark health care law last year, as Collins had predicted.
But the Maine senator also suggested that Roe v. Wade would similarly be upheld.
“I do not think Roe v. Wade is at risk,” she said. “Roe v. Wade is firmly established, it was reinforced and reaffirmed 28 years ago in the Casey vs. Planned Parenthood decision, and it’s a court decision that people have relied on.”