Murkowski says if draft opinion holds, it undermines her confidence in Supreme Court

Protesters converge on the Supreme Court Tuesday. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski says if a majority of justices vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, as a leaked draft opinion suggests is likely, it shakes her confidence in the court.

“It was not the direction that I believed that the court would take, based on statements that have been made about Roe being settled, and being precedent,” Murkowski told reporters.

She spoke at the Capitol Tuesday, a day after the leaked document rocked the nation. It’s a draft authored by Justice Samuel Alito that would get rid of a landmark abortion-rights decision that has stood for 49 years. Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett were on Alito’s side in a preliminary vote, according to Politico, the publication that broke the story.

RELATED: Why overturning Roe wouldn’t end abortion rights in Alaska

Murkowski voted to confirm three of those Republican-nominated justices. She met with all of the Trump nominees beforehand. Ultimately, she did not vote to confirm Kavanaugh, but she said at the time that she believed he wouldn’t vote to overturn Roe, based on her extensive conversations with him.

She emphasized that the report is just a draft and could change. But she said the nominees made assurances to her, and in public, that they considered Roe a settled case and that they would rely on precedent.

“We have heard from from justices as they were going through the confirmation process — Do you feel that Roe vs. Wade is settled law? Do you believe there is precedent? … Reliance was was certainly an issue that I raised, absolutely, with Justice Kavanaugh and absolutely with Justice Barrett.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks with reporters inside the Division of Election office in Anchorage
Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks with reporters in Anchorage in November. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

As she spoke, protestors for and against abortion rights rallied at the Supreme Court. The distant roar of their chanting could be heard in the halls of the Capitol.

Abortion rights proponents said when the Trump nominees were confirmed that Murkowski was naive to believe them. Murkowski stopped short of saying she was lied to — because, she said, “settled” is a relative term. She said she’s aware that nominees could be concealing their views.

“It is a possibility. We know that we have justices that have been certainly more transparent in their views on this than others,” she said. “But again, I think you you look to some of the statements that that were made in the confirmation, specifically to Roe, about precedent, and there’s a reliance factor there.”

Murkowski and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine are the only Republican senators who regularly vote in favor of abortion rights. They’ve sponsored a bill that would provide some national rights to abortion even if the Roe decisions falls. 

The Reproductive Choice Act says states can’t “impose an undue burden on the ability of a woman to choose whether or not to terminate a pregnancy before fetal viability.”

Murkowski and Collins are the only co-sponsors of the bill, which was filed in February. It’s not as comprehensive as a rival Democratic bill that has no Republicans on board.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.

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