Justice Anthony Kennedy is gone and, as a result, Roe v. Wade is in dire straits.
The future of abortion’s legality in the United States rests in the hands of two Republican senators, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME), both unique in their caucus as pro-choice voices, and President Trump, now on the verge of appointing his second Supreme Court justice since taking office, has vowed that he will appoint justices who will overturn Roe.
Some activists have pushed for Democrats to stall the nomination, but Republicans can confirm a nominee with just 50 votes. And thus the future of abortion rights in America now rests with Murkowski and Collins.
A ThinkProgress review of decades of votes, quotes, and speeches from the two senators reveal that a vote in favor of any Trump nominee would go against years of pro-choice stances by the two senators, including comments from a 2002 speech Collins gave in which she called for the GOP to be the pro-choice party.
According to a State News Service report reviewed on Nexis, at a pro-choice GOP conference, Collins said, “The Republican Party should be as synonymous with protecting a woman’s right to choose as the Democratic Party is with expanded government or raising taxes.”
She went on, saying, “Unfortunately, however, the right of women to make choices about their reproductive health, the pro-choice position, is neither reflected in the party platform nor the public’s perception of the GOP.”
In the years since, both Collins and Murkowski have generally avoiding speaking publicly about their abortion beliefs, but in 2003, both voted in favor of an amendment to endorse Roe v. Wade.
“It is the sense of the Senate that the decision of the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade (410 U.S. 113 (1973)) was appropriate and secures an important constitutional right; and such decision should not be overturned,” the amendment said.
In 2004, an anti-abortion group put Murkowski on its “deadly dozen” list, and a Murkowski spokesperson responded saying that although the senator “is personally against abortion,” she recognizes its legality.
In her more than two decades in the Senate, Collins has also frequently pushed for medical exceptions to bills that would ban later-term abortions.
In 1997, she took the Senate floor to speak about the issue, saying, “What we are talking about are the severe, medically diagnosable threats to a woman’s physical health that are sometimes brought on or aggravated by pregnancy. In these rare cases, I believe that we should leave the very difficult decisions about what should be done to the best judgment of the women, families and physicians involved.”
Eighteen years later, she made similar remarks again from the Senate floor, saying that although she opposes later-term abortions, she saw a “glaring deficiency” in the legislation.
“Do we really want to make a criminal out of a physician who is trying to prevent a woman with preeclampsia from suffering damage to her kidneys or liver or having a stroke or seizures?” she asked. “Do we want the threat of prison for a doctor who knows that his pregnant patient needs chemotherapy or radiation treatments?”
In more recent years, both Collins and Murkowski have been the deciding votes on legislation that would have defunded Planned Parenthood, and just last November, Planned Parenthood honored Collins with an award for her consistent refusal to defund the provider.
Both senators also recently voted against a nationwide 20-week abortion ban and have among the highest scores for Republicans on Planned Parenthood’s abortion rights voting report card, with Murkowski scoring a 58 and Collins scoring a 70.
And now the future of abortion in America is in their hands.
In a statement Wednesday, Murkowski said she would “carefully scrutinize” Trump’s pick, adding that she believes Kennedy “held the court together and did right by the Constitution.”
My statement on Justice Kennedy announcing his retirement: pic.twitter.com/svr3dbWUi6
— Sen. Lisa Murkowski (@lisamurkowski) June 27, 2018
Collins addressed Roe specifically, telling reporters Wednesday, “I view Roe v. Wade as being settled law. It’s clearly precedent. I always look for judges who respect precedent.”
Unfortunately for pro-choice advocates, that remark might sound familiar.
In 2005, after former President George W. Bush nominated Sam Alito to the high court, Collins met with Alito, telling reporters later, “I asked him whether it made a difference to him if he disagreed with the initial decision, but it had been reaffirmed several times since then. I was obviously referring to Roe in that question.”
She went on, saying, “He assured me that he has tremendous respect for precedent and that his approach is to not overturn cases due to a disagreement with how they were originally decided.”
During the confirmation process, it was revealed that Alito wrote in a 1985 memo that the government “should make clear that we disagree with Roe v. Wade.” In his confirmation hearings, Alito also refused to call Roe “settled law.”
Murkowski and Collins both voted in favor of Alito nonetheless.
In 2007, he voted with the 5-4 majority up holding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. It was the first decision from the Supreme Court that allowed for a ban on a kind of abortion procedure that did not include a health exception.