Some Dems have emerged from these meetings claiming Alito has indicated that Roe is safe, as far as he's concerned. But has he really? Read the following excerpt from an AP dispatch:
Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito has signaled he would be highly reluctant to overturn long-standing precedents such as the 1973 Roe vs. Wade abortion rights ruling, a move that has helped to silence some of his critics and may resolve a key problem early in the Senate confirmation process, several senators said Tuesday.In the first paragraph, we see that "Alito has signaled he would be highly reluctant to overturn long-standing precedents". In the second paragraph, "Alito has said the Supreme Court should be quite wary of reversing decisions that have been repeatedly upheld".
In private meetings with senators who support abortion rights, Alito has said the Supreme Court should be quite wary of reversing decisions that have been repeatedly upheld, according to the senators who said it was clear that the context was abortion.
"He basically said ... that Roe was precedent on which people -- a lot of people -- relied, and been precedent now for decades and therefore deserved great respect," Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., told reporters after meeting with Alito on Tuesday.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she had a similar conversation about an hour later with Alito, who has made clear that he personally opposes abortion.
"I asked him whether it made a difference to him if he disagreed with the initial decision but it had been reaffirmed several times since then," Collins told reporters.
"I was obviously referring to Roe in that question. He assured me that he has tremendous respect for precedent and that his approach is to not overturn cases due to a disagreement with how they were originally decided."
There's a significant difference between these two characterizations. It's proper to be "wary" of reversing long-standing precedents—in general, there's a good reason such precedents have lasted so long, and because of this a prudent justice won't casually overturn them. But that doesn't mean that he will be reluctant to overturn them if there is a good reason to do so.
This appears to be Alito's general philosophy regarding precedents, and it aligns quite nicely with that of Thomas and Scalia. The pro-abortion senators can't ask directly about the Roe precedent, so all they can do is attempt to divine his views from these general statements. I contend that they don't truly know any more about how he would rule on a Roe challenge than they did before he met with them.