US Senator Collins says won’t support anti-abortion Supreme Court nominee

Susan Collins (R-ME) speaks with reporters ahead of the party luncheons on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 3, 2017. (Reuters pic)

WASHINGTON: A key moderate Republican US senator said on Sunday she will not support a nominee to fill a soon-to-be-vacated seat on the Supreme Court who would overturn a key legal ruling that supports a woman’s right to abortion.

“I would not support a nominee who demonstrated hostility to Roe v Wade,” Susan Collins told CNN’s “State of the Union” program, referring to the 1973 landmark decision.

Collins of Maine is a frequent swing vote in the Senate, which Republicans control by a slim majority.

The Senate must approve any nominee from Republican President Donald Trump to replace Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is retiring at the end of July.

Trump said on Friday he plans to announce his nominee to the nation’s highest court on July 9 and has narrowed his list of candidates to about five, including two women.

“I told [President Trump] that I was looking for a nominee that would demonstrate a respect for precedent … I also suggested that he broaden his search,” Collins also told ABC’s “This Week” program.

She added that there were people on Trump’s initial list that she could not support.

Trump has said he will not ask candidates whether they would overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which established a woman’s right to abortion.

While Kennedy was a conservative, he proved to be a somewhat unpredictable “swing” vote over his long career. He sided with the court’s liberals by voting in favour of abortion rights and gay rights in key cases.

Views on abortion were expected to be a topic that senators will ask the new nominee about in confirmation hearings – even if the president does not.

In addition to Collins, another key vote in the Senate on the abortion issue would be fellow Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who also favours abortion rights.