Tom Cotton says overturn Roe v. Wade because medical science only ‘informs’ these decisions

The Arkansas Republican senator is especially worried that science will mean more abortions.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) in July 2018
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) in July 2018. (Photo credit: Al Drago/Getty Images)

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), a staunch opponent of abortion rights, demanded on Sunday that the Supreme Court overturn its Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey precedents and leave abortion rights up for to the voters. Asked whether the decision should be based on medical science, he demurred.

“Medical science, of course, informs these decisions, but ultimately these are moral questions,” he told NBC News.

In recent weeks, several Republican-controlled states have passed unconstitutional laws that would prohibit virtually all abortions. Though they contradict the Supreme Court’s clear precedents, these lawmakers hope that the new even-more-conservative majority on the high court will overturn its abortion rights holdings.

While noting that he differed slightly with Alabama’s just-passed ban — which does not even make exceptions for cases of rape and incest — Cotton endorsed the idea that the Supreme Court should let state lawmakers enact any abortion bans they want.


Asked whether medical science and a panel of doctors — rather than politics — should determine questions of reproductive health, Cotton disagreed.

“As the progress of medical science advances, it informs our debate,” answered Cotton, a former lawyer and military officer with no medical training.

He then launched into an attack on it, simultaneously claiming that medicine can test for medical defects and that it cannot.

“We have some horrific practices that are now possible by medical science, such as screening for abortion,” Cotton said, “for people who may want to select for a male child instead of a female child or who look for various kinds of genetic defects or indicators. And they want to abort a child that may not even have those illnesses or those diseases when they’re born.”

Though host Chuck Todd noted that nearly two-thirds of voters in 2018 said they favor keeping the Supreme Court’s abortion rights precedents as they are, Cotton said he thinks otherwise: “I think those decisions were wrongly decided, as a constitutional matter. I think these are decisions that the American people ought to make through their elected representatives.”