‘I Don’t Have Any Agenda’: Tall Tales Anti-Abortion Justices Told Senate

Justices Roberts, Thomas, Alito, Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, and Barrett all responded artfully to questions about abortion being established law

It was the moment everyone had been waiting for throughout the nearly 12-hour hearing. Amy Comey Barrett appeared before Congress in October 2020 as President Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court and was pressed by Senator Diane Feinstein on how she may handle the abortion rights.

The issue had been on everyone’s mind when Barrett was announced as a nominee. In her response, Barrett invoked the high court’s landmark 1992 decision on Planned Parenthood v. Casey—which upheld the right to abortion care that was established 19 years prior with the Roe v. Wade decision. 

“I don’t have any agenda,” Barrett told Feinstein, Congress, and the country at the closely-watched hearing. “I have no agenda to try to overrule Casey. I have an agenda to stick to the rule of law,” she said, perfectly composed. 

This was in response to Feinstein’s question—in which the senator had invoked Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s 1993 confirmation hearing and how the late justice, who Barrett was replacing, expressed her view on how the constitution protects the right to abortion, then bluntly asked if she agrees with late Justice Anton Scalia’s view that Roe was wrongly decided.

Barrett dodged that one, saying, “I can’t pre-commit or say yes, I am going in with some agenda because… I have an agenda to stick to the rule of law and decide cases as they come.”

Barrett telling Congress she had “no agenda” may or may not have been the truth. But it is true that Barrett, in the end, didn’t overturn Planned Parenthood v. Casey. As we saw today, the youngest Supreme Court Justice voted with her male colleagues on overturning Roe decades after it granted women the right to abortion care. The other Justices who voted to overturn Roe in the 6-3 decision—Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and Justice Neil Gorsuch—all stressed the importance of precedence during Senate confirmation hearings. 

Here is a look back at exactly how these SCOTUS justices answered or dodged the questions of lawmakers—as well as the American people—as they were confirmed to be granted the power to control our laws. 

Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018

“As a judge, it is an important precedent of the Supreme Court. By it, I mean, Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood versus Casey. It’s been reaffirmed many times.”

“[Roe] is settled as a precedent of the Supreme Court, entitled the respect under principles of stare decisis. And one of the important things to keep in mind about Roe v. Wade is that it has been reaffirmed many times over the past 45 years, as you know, and most prominently, most importantly, reaffirmed in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992.”

Justice Neil Gorsuch in 2017

“Roe vs. Wade was decided in 1973 as a precedent. The United States Supreme Court…It was reaffirmed in Casey in 1992 and in several other cases. So a good judge will consider it, as precedent of the United States Supreme Court, worthy as treatment of precedent—like any other.”

“Roe vs. Wade was decided in 1973 as a precedent. The United States Supreme Court…It was reaffirmed in Casey in 1992 and in several other cases. So a good judge will consider it, as precedent of the United States Supreme Court, worthy as treatment of precedent—like any other.”

Gorsuch said that “Casey is settled law,” adding “in the sense that it is a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.” 

When asked if Roe is a so-called super-precedent, Gorsuch replied, “It has been reaffirmed many times. I can say that.”

Later, when Gorsuch was asked what he would do if Trump, who had nominated him to the court, had asked him to overturn Roe v Wade.

“Senator, I would have wanted out that door. It’s not what judges do.” 

Justice Samuel Alito in 2006

“Roe versus Wade is an important precedent of the Supreme Court. it was decided in 1973. The Supreme Court has reaffirmed the decision when a decision is challenged and it is reaffirmed that strengthens its value. I believe the Constitution protects the right to privacy.”

Alito refused to answer Feinstein when she pressed him on whether or not Roe had been settled by the courts.

“It would be wrong for me to say to anybody who might be bringing any case before my court, ‘If you bring your case before my court, I’m not even going to listen to you. I’ve made up my mind on this issue. I’m not going to read your brief. I’m not going to listen to your argument. I’m not going to discuss the issue with my colleagues. Go away — I’ve made up my mind,’ ” he said.

Justice Clarence Thomas in 199

“I believe the Constitution protects the right to privacy. And I have no reason or agenda to prejudge the issue or would have done it.”

“I have not made…a decision one way or the other with respect to that important decision.”

“I do not have a position to share with you here today on…whether or not that case was properly decided. Senator, your question to me was, did I debate the contents of Roe v Wade, the outcome in Roe v Wade? Do I have this day an opinion, a personal opinion, on the outcome of Roe v Wade? And my answer to you is that I do not. I have no agenda on Senator, I have tried to, here, as well as in my other endeavors as a judge, to remain impartial to remain open-minded and I am open-minded on this particularly important issue.”

Chief Justice Roberts in 2005

“I think it’s important, and again, to women on both sides of the issue and also, I think, to men as well, but obviously, it’s an issue that directly affects women. It’s a fundamental question, as the Court has addressed in Roe and in Casey, that obviously affects the lives directly of millions of Americans, and the availability of rights under that decision affects women. But I know there are people of strongly held views on both sides of the issue. And I know that the responsibility of a judge confronting this issue is to decide the case according to the rule of law consistent with the precedents, not to take sides in a dispute as a matter of policy, but to decide it according to the law.”

“And to the extent that your questions earlier about causes we agree with [and] causes we don’t agree with, I do want to emphasize that there is a unifying theme in my approach, both as a lawyer and as a judge. And that is the cause that I believe in passionately, the one to which I have devoted my professional career, is the vindication of the rule of law. And I tried to explain in my opening statement on Monday why that’s important. Because without it, any other rights that you may agree with as a matter of policy are meaningless. You need to have courts that will enforce the rule of law if you’re going to have rights that mean anything.”

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