Judge Brett Kavanaugh faced his first full day of questioning from members of Congress on many controversial issues as his confirmation hearings continued on Wednesday.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) peppered the Supreme Court nominee with questions about his stance on the 1973 landmark abortion-rights case Roe vs. Wade, which Kavanaugh has described as “settled law.”
“What do you mean by ‘settled law’? Do you believe it is correct law?” asked Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Have your views about whether Roe is settled precedent changed since you were in the Bush White House?”
“One of the important things to keep in mind about Roe vs. Wade is that it has been reaffirmed many times over the past 45 years,” Kavanaugh responded. “I will tell you what my view right now is, which is it’s an important precedent of the Supreme Court that has been reaffirmed many times.”
“The Supreme Court didn’t just reaffirm it in passing,” he added, mentioning Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reaffirmed Roe in 1992.
“I don’t want to go back to those death tolls in this country,” Feinstein responded, presumably referring to back-alley abortions that activists claim took place frequently before abortion was legalized. “And I truly believe that women should be able to control their own reproductive systems, within obviously some concern for a viable fetus.”
“I understand your point of view on that, senator, and I understand how passionate and how deeply people feel about this issue,” Kavanaugh said. “I don’t live in a bubble. I live in the real world. I understand the importance of the issue.”
Feinstein also asked the nominee what his personal “position today is on a woman’s right to choose?”
Kavanaugh declined to answer the question directly but stressed that “as a judge” he believes Roe is an important precedent and Casey is “precedent on precedent.”
Kavanaugh’s position echoes the one he offered in 2006 when he was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit. “If confirmed to the D.C. Circuit, I would follow Roe v. Wade faithfully and fully,” Kavanaugh said during that hearing. “That would be binding precedent of the Court. It’s been decided by the Supreme Court.”
The abortion issue monopolized the national spotlight in the weeks before the start of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing. Abortion-rights supporters worry that he would vote to overturn Roe, should it be re-litigated, and groups such as NARAL and Planned Parenthood have organized campaigns urging senators to vote against his confirmation.