Senator Dianne Feinstein, the committee’s top Democrat, opened her questioning by asking Barrett to introduce her family, seated behind her. Feinstein then turned to Roe v. Wade to question whether Barrett believes the landmark 1973 abortion case should be overturned.
“Do you agree with Justice Scalia’s view that Roe was wrongly decided?” Feinstein asked.
Barrett declined to address Roe directly, citing Justice Elena Kagan to say she couldn’t comment on precedents that continue to be challenged in court.
“When she was in her confirmation hearing, she said that she was not going to grade precedent, or give it a thumbs up or thumbs down, and I think in an area where precedent continues to be pressed and litigated, as is true of Casey, it would be particularly, it would actually be wrong and a violation of the canons to do that as a sitting judge,” Barrett replied. “So if I express a view on a precedent one way or another, whether I say I love it or I hate it, it signals to litigants that I might tilt one way or another in a pending case.”
“So on something that is really a major cause, with major effect on over half of the population of this country who are women, after all, it’s distressing not to get a straight answer,” Feinstein said.
Barrett insisted that she had no agenda, specifically mentioning Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 ruling that established the “undue burden” standard for restrictions on abortion.
“I can’t pre-commit or say I’m going in with some agenda, because I’m not,” Barrett said. “What I will commit is that I will obey all the rules of stare decisis, that if a question comes up before me about whether Casey or any other case should be overruled, that I will follow the law on stare decisis, applying it as the court has articulated it.”
Barrett also discussed District of Columbia v. Heller, a 2008 case where the Supreme Court reaffirmed the right to bear arms. She said the Heller decision “leaves room for gun regulations,” and that the right to bear arms was not “absolute.”