Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks to reporters amid the fallout from a leaked draft Supreme Court opinion that could overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, May 4, 2022. Collins, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that confirms Supreme Court appointments, said in a statement that if the leaked draft opinion on abortion becomes the ruling of the court, "it would be completely inconsistent with what Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh said in their hearings and in our meetings in my office." Credit: J. Scott Applewhite

RUMFORD, Maine — Both the leak of a draft Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade and past criticisms of justices from the Senate’s top Democrat threaten to damage the credibility of the high court, Sen. Susan Collins said Friday.

The Republican has been at the center of debate after a decision leaked to Politico showed a conservative majority of the court ready to overturn abortion rights. That group included justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, who were appointed by former President Donald Trump.

Collins backed Kavanaugh in a landmark 2018 vote saying he told her Roe was “settled law.” After the leak, the senator has said decisions from Gorsuch and Kavanaugh to overturn it would be “completely inconsistent” with what they told her during the confirmation process.

When asked about how such a decision might affect her view on the court’s credibility after speaking at a Rumford event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, Collins did not answer directly, saying the decision could change by the time it is issued. 

She turned to the leak of the decision itself and referenced past comments from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, calling both attacks on the court’s credibility.

“He essentially threatened the justices by name,” Collins said, referring to Schumer saying in 2020 that Kavanaugh and Gorsuch would “pay the price” if they moved to roll back abortion rights. He later apologized and said he was alluding to “political consequences.”

Collins, one of two Senate Republicans who backs abortion rights, has been reluctant to go further than her “inconsistent” statement to discuss the ramifications of a potential ruling overturning Roe with the decision still pending.

After Kavanaugh’s appointment, the Maine senator predicted the court would not make such a decision. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the other pro-abortion rights Republican, has said her faith in the court will be shaken if the decision stands.

Collins and Murkowski have been aligned on the abortion issue in recent months. Both opposed Democratic abortion-rights measures that they call too far-reaching, including one that failed in the Senate earlier this month. Democrats have not embraced a narrower measure from the two that would codify Roe’s protections.

On Friday, Collins pointed to that effort and an ongoing one with U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, launched after the Democratic bill failed. Text of that measure is expected to be released next week, although the 60-vote Senate filibuster stands in the way with no more Republicans likely to support it and few Democrats looking ready to compromise.

The Collins-Kaine bill would codify Supreme Court decisions on abortion beyond Roe, including on contraception access and barring states from imposing undue burdens on people seeking abortions. It would also allow exemptions for health care providers who disagree with abortion.