(CNN)When Justice Brett Kavanaugh was facing tough questions during his 2018 confirmation battle about his views on the Supreme Court’s abortion rulings. he returned time and time again to the importance of precedent and their “precedent on precedent.”
Speaking more broadly, Kavanaugh at the time described the circumstances that the justices overturn precedent as “rare” and said that a court majority’s disagreement with a prior ruling was, by itself, not enough to overturn it.
But Kavanaugh’s tone on when the court departs from “stare decisis,” the concept of standing by its previous decisions, was a bit different on Wednesday when the court debated the future of abortion rights and its previous rulings.
As he touted the “string” of “important” and “consequential” cases where the court had previously overturned precedent, Kavanaugh said Wednesday that “history tells a somewhat different story, I think, than is sometimes assumed.”
His questions and comments Wednesday suggested he is inclined to uphold Mississippi’s 15-week ban on abortion. Mississippi wants to reverse Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision enshrining a constitutional right to an abortion, leaving the question of whether abortion can be banned to the states.
The statements Kavanaugh made about Roe and precedent in 2018 were key to him securing the support of Sen. Susan Collins, the Maine Republican who favors abortion rights and who provided the pivotal vote for confirming Kavanaugh to the high court.
She claimed at the time that Kavanaugh had privately told her that Roe v. Wade was “settled law,” while pointing to his public remarks about precedent to explain why she was supporting his confirmation.
“In his testimony, he noted repeatedly that Roe had been upheld by Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, describing it as a precedent,” Collins said in the floor speech announcing her vote, citing the 1992 decision. “When I asked him would it be sufficient to overturn a long-established precedent if five current justices believed that it was wrongly decided, he emphatically said ‘no.'”
Collins continues to support abortion rights, telling CNN on Wednesday she is “for Roe.”
She declined to comment on Kavanaugh’s remarks during the Mississippi case hearing, telling CNN she had not heard the arguments but was planning on listening to them Wednesday night.
On Thursday when asked by CNN whether she still believed that Kavanaugh viewed Roe as settled law, Collins said, “I think we all need to wait and see what the final decision is.”
Court rulings on abortion that are ‘precedent on precedent’
Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court by then-President Donald Trump, who promised during the 2016 campaign to pick justices who would “automatically” overturn Roe v. Wade. At the time Kavanaugh was selected to replace the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, Republicans held 51 seats in the Senate — two of them belonging to senators who describe themselves as favoring abortion rights, making abortion a focal point of his confirmation process.
Kavanaugh declined to say what his views were of the Roe decision on the merits but said it was “entitled to respect under the law of precedent.”
“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,” Kavanaugh said in his confirmation hearing, adding that the Casey decision analyzed the “stare decisis factors” when explaining why the precedent was not overturned.
“It is not as if it is just a run-of-the-mill case that was decided and never been reconsidered, but Casey specifically r
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