In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the abortion rights precedent set by 1973’s Roe v. Wade, some critics are accusing certain justices on the court of having lied and committed perjury on that issue during their confirmation hearings.
Specifically, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh stand accused of lying about whether or not they’d vote to overturn Roe, but as law professor Jonathan Turley has explained, that isn’t the case at all, Townhall reported.
Senators claim justices lied about stance on abortion, past precedents
One of those who has accused Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh of lying is Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who said in a statement Friday, “This decision is inconsistent with what Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh said in their testimony and their meetings with me, where they both were insistent on the importance of supporting long-standing precedents that the country has relied upon.”
She was joined by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who similarly said, “I trusted Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh when they testified under oath that they also believed Roe v. Wade was settled legal precedent and I am alarmed they chose to reject the stability the ruling has provided for two generations of Americans.”
Those statements, in turn, echoed the more caustic accusation from Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) after the initial leak of the Dobbs ruling in May, when he tweeted, “Several conservative Justices, who are in no way accountable to the people, have lied to the Senate, ripped up the Constitution, and defiled precedent and the Court’s reputation — all at the expense of women who could soon be stripped of bodily autonomy and constitutional rights.”
No, the justices didn’t lie during their confirmation hearings
Nobody but the justices and senators know what, exactly, was said behind closed doors during private meetings ahead of the confirmation hearings, but Townhall revisited the public testimony of both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh and found no evidence that either lied about where they stood on respecting prior precedent or the possibility of overturning past decisions.
Indeed, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley wrote at length immediately after the Dobbs leak and debunked the accusations at that time that certain justices had lied under oath during their confirmation hearings about whether or not they’d vote to affirm or overturn Roe v. Wade.
The testimonies of both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh were no different than virtually all other Supreme Court nominees since the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who set a precedent of her own by delivering decided non-answers to direct questions about specific issues and how she might vote on them.
To sum up, Turley declared, “In reality, they did not lie in testimony in referencing Roe as established precedent. The suggestion of perjury is utter nonsense.”
The rich history of prior court precedence being overturned
As an aside, the clear implication in these accusations of dishonesty from the senators and many, many others is that it is simply unheard of for prior precedents set by the Supreme Court to eventually be revisited or overruled, but that is a patently absurd assumption.
To wit, according to the Constitution Annotated, as compiled by the Library of Congress, more than 230 prior rulings from the Supreme Court since the dawn of the nation have been overturned, directly repudiated, or otherwise ignored as of 2020.
Furthermore, if the Supreme Court never revisited and corrected obviously wrong prior precedents, black people would still not be considered citizens, “separate but equal” segregation would still exist, and a host of other bad decisions would continue to plague our society and make a mockery of the fundamental principles espoused by the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution.