During day one of his confirmation hearing, Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein asked Sessions if he stood by his statement that the landmark Supreme Court case on abortion represented “one of the worst, colossally erroneous Supreme Court decisions of all time.” Sessions responded that he did.
“I believe it violated the Constitution, and really attempted to set policy and not follow the law,” he said, following the Republican party line that Roe v. Wade is an example of judicial activism. He then added, however, “It is the law of the land, it has been so established and settled for quite a long time. It deserves respect, and I would respect it and follow it.”
Of course, the Supreme Court, which the Constitution bestowed as the final authority on all cases arising from that sacred text, has taken a different stance than Sessions a number of times, each with different compositions of judges. In Roe v. Wade, the Court ruled 7-2 that the 14th Amendment “protects against state action the right to privacy, including a woman’s qualified right to terminate her pregnancy.” In Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), the Court, while allowing states to put restrictions on the procedure so long as it does not cause “undue burden,“ still upheld the basic principles of Roe v Wade: that the Constitution gives women the right to have an abortion. And last summer, in Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt, the Court upheld the right for a woman to have an abortion yet again — and clarified that a number of the restrictions put on the procedure in Texas did, indeed, violate that “undue burden.”
Sessions’ statements about Roe v. Wade aren’t exactly surprising, considering he’s made his anti-abortion stance quite well known. During his tenure in the Senate, Sessions voted to ban later-term abortions except in cases where the mother’s life is in danger and abortions on military bases. He’s voted repeatedly to cut federal funding from organizations that perform abortions. Beyond abortion, women’s rights activists are concerned that he might not extend other protections to women, especially given his past statements about sexual assault (which he backpedaled today during his confirmation hearing) and his vote against the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act.