President Donald Trump campaigned on appointing a Supreme Court justice who would be pro-life and possibly overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that legalized abortion throughout the U.S.
But Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee to the highest court in the nation, would not confirm during Senate questioning that he’s a judge who fits that description.
The overturn of that decision would happen “automatically, in my opinion,” Trump said during a presidential candidate debate with Hillary Clinton. He had previously hedged on whether they would overturn the decision in an interview with “60 Minutes.”
“They’ll be pro-life ... having to do with abortion, what it – if it ever were overturned, it would go back to the states, so it would go back to the states,” Trump said.
A question from Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, focused on that issue Tuesday morning, which has been a sticking point for Democrats who have said they may not vote to confirm him.
“Roe v. Wade is a precedent of the Supreme Court,” Gorsuch said during his first day of questioning. “It was reaffirmed in Casey ... and in several other cases.”
Planned Parenthood v. Casey was a Supreme Court case in 1992 that established states have the right to put certain restrictions on abortions as long as they don’t create an “undue burden.”
“It’s been repeatedly reaffirmed,” Gorsuch added.
As is standard for judges during confirmation hearings, Gorsuch repeatedly said he would not talk about how he would rule on particular issues. But he also said precedent is an important part of how he rules as a judge.
When Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., followed that statement by asking if Gorsuch thought Roe v. Wade amounted to a “superprecedent,” Gorsuch would not confirm or deny, only saying that dozens of cases had reaffirmed the decision. Superprecedents are a relatively new theory in the judicial world that says some rulings are so deeply embedded in the law they should be especially hard to overturn.