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>> Can you tell me whether roll was decided correctly?>> If it looks like I'm giving hints or previews about how I might rule, I think that's the beginning of the end.>> It's a time honored ritual for all Supreme Court nominees. Coming up with creative non-answers when asked about overturning precedents like the right to abortion.
But when Judge Brett Kavanaugh goes before the Senate, Tuesday, such questions will take on an urgency not seen in a generation. That's because President Donald Trump's nominee could finally give conservatives the votes they need to overturn a weakened Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.
With other issues important to Democrats, like affirmative action and gay rights, also in play. Supreme Court reporter Lawrence Hurley.>> The democrats in particular will be probing him on where he stands on abortion and also the grounds on which the Supreme Court can overturn its own precedent. Kavanaugh could potentially be the fifth vote on the court among the nine justices and therefore a deciding vote to overturn the decision and potentially send it back to the states on whether abortion can be legal.
>> Kavanaugh would replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, known as the court's swing voter, he disappointed conservatives by affirming abortion rights in two key cases. While Kavanaugh has not ruled directly on abortion in his time as an Appeals Court judge, he has shown sympathy for a legal arguments made by anti-abortion advocates.
That's one reason Democrats oppose him, and it's also been enough to worry moderate Republican senators like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski who favor abortion rights. Kavanaugh recently appeared to allay some of those concerns telling Collins he thinks Roe v Wade is quote, settled law. But Hurley says that's not the end of the story.
>> So all the justices talk about how important respect for precedent is. And it's something that comes up during every confirmation hearing when they're asked about this. But then once you get on the Supreme Court, if you have five votes among the nine justices, you can basically do whatever you want.
Conservative activists will start to bring cases that they think they can win at the court, including maybe trying to get rid of affirmative action, curbing gay rights>> With Republicans narrowing in control of the Senate, they can ensure Kavanaugh's confirmation if they vote together. Overturning Roe v Wade would not instantly make abortion illegal.
But advocates fear it could be an initial step toward an outright ban.