President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, U.S. District Judge Neil Gorsuch of Colorado, has stated before Congress that he views the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision as a law with precedent. While suggesting that the abortion-rights ruling is settled law, the judge did not commit to either upholding it or overturning it in any future court case.
On Mar. 21, Gorsuch appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee for the second day in a row to answer questions about his views on pressing constitutional issues. When asked about the landmark abortion rights ruling by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Gorsuch said that the decision had since been reaffirmed.
"Roe v. Wade, decided in 1973, is a precedent of the United States Supreme Court, it has been reaffirmed... and all of the other factors that go into analyzing precedent have to be considered," Gorsuch said, according to Fox News. "A good judge will consider it as precedent of the United States Supreme Court, worthy as treatment of precedent like any other."
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California pointed to Trump's pledge on the campaign trail to appoint SCOTUS judges who would overturn the 1973 decision. Gorsuch responded that the law had existed long enough to not likely be contested.
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"Once a case is settled, that adds to the determinacy of the law," Gorsuch said. "What was once a hotly-contested issue is no longer a hotly-contested issue. We move forward.... It has been reaffirmed many times, I can say that."
Feinstein noted that Roe v. Wade had been reaffirmed by the court dozens of times.
During the 2016 presidential race, Trump had vowed to appoint SCOTUS Justices with the intention of ending abortion as a federal right.
"Well, if we put another two or perhaps three [justices] on, that's really what's going to be -- that will happen," Trump said during the third presidential debate in October 2016, according to The Washington Post. "And that'll happen automatically, in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court... It will go back to the states, and the states will then make a determination."
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In July 2016, Vice President Mike Pence had vowed during a campaign event in Michigan that Trump's election would result in Roe v. Wade being overturned, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"We'll see Roe v. Wade consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs... we must ensure the next president appointing justices to the Supreme Court is Donald Trump," Pence said.
Later on in Gorsuch’s hearing, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina asked the federal judge if Trump had discussed overturning Roe v. Wade with him.
"Senator, I would have walked out the door," Gorsuch responded, according to Real Clear Politics. "It's not what judges do. They don't do it at the end of Pennsylvania Ave. and they shouldn't do it at this end either, respectfully."
The SCOTUS nominee did not commit to how he would rule on any case involving Roe v. Wade or any other potential issue.
"I have offered no promises on how I'd rule, in any case, to anyone and I don't think it's appropriate for a judge to do so," Gorsuch told the Judiciary Committee.