In October, Sen. Susan Collins garnered significant criticism when she voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as President Donald Trump's pick to replace now-retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. But now, Collins is defending her Kavanaugh vote with the Supreme Court's recent decision not to hear a case brought forth by states where Republican lawmakers sought to strip Planned Parenthood of its Medicaid funding.
"Planned Parenthood was Brett Kavanaugh's number one opponent," Collins said Sunday while speaking with Jake Tapper on CNN's State of the Union. "They went after him with everything that they had. And yet, when it came to this case, he was able to put that aside and rule impartially, independently."
Collins went on to argue that Kavanaugh's vote in support of the Supreme Court declining to hear the case was "notable" as it was "the key vote." "It takes only four votes on the court to decide to hear a case like that, and despite the way he was treated by Planned Parenthood, he ruled not to hear the case," she said. "I was trying to speak to his temperament and his fairness and his impartiality, which I think he did demonstrate in this case."
On Monday, Kavanaugh joined Chief Justice John Roberts and the court's four known liberal judges to vote against taking up two cases, which centered around efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. In declining to hear the cases, the Supreme Court let stand rulings from lower courts which said Planned Parenthood could not be barred from receiving Medicaid funding for its treatment of low-income patients.
Sunday wasn't the first time Collins used the Supreme Court's recent move to decline hearing appeals in Gee v. Planned Parenthood of Gulf Coast and Andersen v. Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri as a means of defending her vote to confirm Kavanaugh. Previously Collins told reporters she felt "vindicated" by Kavanaugh's vote to decline the cases.
But Planned Parenthood supporters and reproductive rights advocates have pushed back on Collins' defense. "Sen. Collins is wrong to think that Kavanaugh's vote on Monday signals any support whatsoever for Roe v. Wade," Elizabeth Wydra, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, told CNN. "The case had nothing to do with abortion ... Sen. Collins' should not breath a sigh of relief until Kavanaugh squarely votes to support Roe."
Indeed, neither Gee v. Planned Parenthood of Gulf Coast or Andersen v. Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri dealt with the issue of abortion as health care organizations like Planed Parenthood are already barred via federal law from using Medicaid funds to cover the cost of abortions. Rather, Planned Parenthood uses Medicaid funding to cover the cost of birth control, cancer screenings, family planning services, and STI testing and treatments for low-income patients. In fact, the healthcare organization claims that at least 60 percent of its patients rely on funding from public health programs like Medicaid and Title X for their preventative and primary care.
And so, despite Collins' recent remarks, Kavanaugh's refusal to hear cases aimed at stripping Planned Parenthood of its Medicaid funds doesn't actually say much about how the conservative Supreme Court justice feels about overturning Roe v. Wade and limiting women's access to abortion.