Questioning of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch began Tuesday, with the Colorado judge mostly playing coy when asked about abortion.
Gorsuch will join three reliably pro-life justices on the High Court if appointed, and would draw the Court one step closer to overturning Roe v. Wade. Not surprisingly, the topic of abortion came up multiple times during the hearings Tuesday.
Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein told the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday that her job was to assess whether Gorsuch was a ""reasonable mainstream conservative.
On Tuesday, she grilled Gorsuch about the legitimacy of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court holding that legalized abortion throughout the nation. The senior senator from California first asked Gorsuch to repeat his adherence to precedent, i.e.", past court decisions.
Gorsuch answered that judges following precedent is a "key part" of rule of law.
"Once a case is settled, that adds to the determinacy of the law," he answered. "What was once a hotly contested issue is no longer a hotly contested issue. We move forward."
Feinstein then turned directly to abortion, and asked if Gorsuch did not agree that Roe, which has been reaffirmed many times by the Court in the last 44 years, was "super-precedent." Gorsuch refused to call Roe "super-precedent," but acknowledged that it had been reaffirmed many times.
He also took questions on abortion from South Carolina Republican senator Lindsey Graham. An opponent of President Trump during the Republican primaries, Graham said Monday that none of the other Republican candidates could have chosen a better candidate than Gorsuch. Graham continued to laud the nominee Tuesday, noting his pre-eminent qualifications for the Court.
Graham asked Gorsuch to give his understanding of current abortion law, including Roe and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, the 1992 Court holding that reaffirmed abortion rights. Graham then asked if the framework given in Casey, which allowed states to impose restrictions on abortions after life becomes viable for a baby out of the womb, could allow South Carolina to place restrictions on abortions occurring before 20 weeks.
Gorsuch evaded the question, saying he could not determine fetal viability. "I'm not a scientist," he added.
The nominee spent much of Tuesday morning evading questions about abortion, claiming such answers would threaten separation of powers and the "independence of the judiciary." Yet one of his most fervent replies came in response to a question about Roe.
Asking about Gorsuch's meeting with President Trump, Graham asked, "In that interview did he ever ask you to over rule Roe v. Wade?" Gorsuch answered, "No."
"What would you have done if he had asked?" the senator continued.
Gorsuch stared at his interrogator and stated firmly, "Senator, I would have walked out the door. It's not what judges do."