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

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A key moderate Republican U.S. 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.

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) walks outside the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. February 7, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Thayer/File Photo

“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 only a slim majority.

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FILE PHOTO: Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) speaks about the Senate Intelligence Committee findings and recommendations on threats to election infrastructure on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

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. The president has said he will choose a nominee from a list of 25 jurists developed for him by White House aides and conservative Washington legal activists.

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senator Susan Collins speaks at the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce's Quarterly Business Breakfast in Rockport, Maine, U.S., October 13, 2017. REUTERS/Joel Page/File Photo

Trump has said he will not ask candidates whether they would overturn the Roe v. Wade, a landmark 1973 ruling on a women’s abortion rights. For decades it has been a major focus of America’s long-running and bitter debate about abortion.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told NBC’s “Meet the Press” he sees legal precedent as important on the issue.

He said, “Roe v Wade has been affirmed over the years ... I am not going to vote for anyone who tells me they are going to decide a case before the facts are presented.”

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 favor 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 favors abortion rights.

Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir; Additional reporting by Howard Schneider; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Nick Zieminski

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