President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh said on Wednesday that Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling protecting abortion rights, is "an important precedent of the Supreme Court that has been reaffirmed many times."
Addressing the Judiciary Committee's top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, Kavanaugh said that the 1973 case "has been reaffirmed many times over the past 45 years, as you know."
Democrats have expressed concern that Kavanaugh would overturn or roll back the ruling, and two key Republican lawmakers — Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have said that the issue could be significant in shaping their votes. Collins told reporters last month that Kavanaugh told her he viewed Roe as "settled" law.
In front of lawmakers for the second day of his confirmation hearings, Kavanaugh said he understood the importance of the case.
"I don't live in a bubble, I understand, I live in the real world. I understand the importance of the issue," Kavanaugh said. He said that the Supreme Court's ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey added force to the court's legal reasoning. It was "precedent on precedent," he said.
"The Supreme Court didn't just reaffirm it in passing," he said.
Feinstein's office expressed skepticism of Kavanaugh's statements in a tweet posted during the hearing.
"Thomas, Alito, Roberts and Gorsuch used the same playbook," the tweet said. "We can't accept vague promises from Brett Kavanaugh when women's reproductive freedom is at stake."
Reproductive rights activists have vigorously opposed Kavanaugh's nomination, citing Trump's claim that he would nominate judges to the court who would "automatically" overturn Roe, as well as Kavanaugh's comment last year that former Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist, who wrote a dissent in Roe, was Kavanaugh's "judicial hero."
Following the president's announcement that Kavanaugh would be his pick, Planned Parenthood immediately called on the Senate to reject him.
"There's no way to sugarcoat it: with this nomination, the constitutional right to access safe, legal abortion in this country is on the line," the group's executive vice president Dawn Laguens said at the time. "We already know how Brett Kavanaugh would rule on Roe v. Wade, because the president told us so."