President Donald Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court on September 26, according to the New York Times, a mere eight days following the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was originally one of Trump’s top picks for the Supreme Court seat that belonged to retired Justice Anthony Kennedy in 2018, and she was a favorite among conservatives, according to the Washington Post. However, the seat ended up going to Justice Brett Kavanaugh instead.
Barrett is an attorney and jurist, who currently serves as a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, according to BBC News, and prior to and during her time on the federal bench, she was also a professor of law at Notre Dame Law School.
Now, after having already nominated two justices to the Supreme Court over the past four years, Trump has publicly stated that he seeks to appoint justices that he hopes will overrule Roe v. Wade and dismantle the Affordable Care Act, according to the New York Times.
Since Barrett’s official nomination, many Americans have begun to fear the consequences of her confirmation for a multitude of reasons. The potential majority-conservative panel that would follow if she is confirmed threatens the accessibility of healthcare to low-income families, the bodily autonomy of women, immigrant rights and gun rights, among a plethora of other issues, according to Planned Parenthood and other activist groups.
In particular, Barrett’s own history has given Americans many reasons to believe that their worries may become legitimate problems.
As a devout Catholic, Barrett has found lots of support from religious right-wing conservatives. Meanwhile, the Democrats have expressed concerns that her religious sentiments will impact her rulings as a judge.
In a document titled “Catholic Judges in Capital Cases” published in 1998 with John H. Garvey, she wrote about her inability to separate her religion from the law in capital cases and how she is obliged to adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
In 2017, during the confirmation hearings for Barrett’s current judgeship, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California voiced Democrats’ concerns, telling Barrett that the “dogma lives within you,” according to the New Yorker.
Barrett responded by stating that she removes her personal faith from her rulings as a judge, contradicting what she had written in the past, according to the records of her initial confirmation before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Recently, it has become apparent that Barrett has ties to People of Praise, a Christian group with anti-abortion sentiments and very misogynistic views, according to NPR. Their report stated that the board of People of Praise is all-male, and it has referred to women as “handmaids.”
NPR’s report stated that the People of Praise assert that the man should be the leader of the household and is avidly against contraception and abortion. Recently, the group has been trying to erase any mention of her from their organization in an effort to brighten her public image.
This nomination has raised fears for many women nationwide, as Barrett’s past record suggests that she will turn the Supreme Court further to the right, and undo much of her predecessor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy, according to her own past writings and statements during her judgeship.
According to the New York Times, her position on the Supreme Court would create a 6-3 far-right conservative majority and could allow them to easily strike down the Affordable Care Act.
Barrett has historically opposed a tenet of the ACA involving the inclusion of contraception in healthcare plans and has criticized the initial Supreme Court decision that upheld the law. In 2012, Barrett signed a petition that objected to the provision of the ACA that required most employer health insurance plans to include contraception coverage, according to CNN. This petition stated that the mandate was an “assault” on the “religious liberty and the rights of conscience” of employers.
A statement from the petition read: “The simple fact is that the Obama administration is compelling religious people and institutions who are employers to purchase a health insurance contract that provides abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization.”
Barrett’s support and signing of this petition show that her religious beliefs may very well compel her to support striking down the ACA should she ascend to SCOTUS.
Meanwhile, Roe v. Wade could be facing its greatest challenge yet. Publicly, Barrett has stated that she would intend to follow precedent when ruling on the Supreme Court, but her record on abortion indicates that she will encourage restrictions on abortion, and even possibly support overturning Roe v. Wade, based on her own writings and statements.
Barrett’s past has suggested a definite opposition to abortion rights, but, like most conservative nominees, the New York Times has reported, she has been cautious and vague in her responses about her personal beliefs about the subject.
She has remarked that it is unlikely for Roe v. Wade to be overturned, instead focusing on how changes will be made in terms of how abortions will be funded.
In 2013, during her time as a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, she stated, according to CNN: “The fundamental element, that the woman has a right to choose abortion, will probably stand. The controversy now is about funding. It’s a question of whether abortions will be publicly or privately funded.”
However, we must be aware that this statement was made before Trump’s rise to the presidency and his appointment of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, both right-wing conservatives, to the Supreme Court, whose positions have made the overturning of Roe v. Wade much more plausible.
Proof of Barrett’s anti-abortion sentiments can be found in her signing of a newspaper ad placed by St. Joseph County Right to Life, an anti-abortion group, in 2006 that supported overturning Roe v. Wade, according to the New York Times.
In addition to this, Barrett has supported gun rights. During her judgeship on the Seventh Circuit, she wrote that the Second Amendment does not necessarily prohibit felons from owning a gun, according to the New Republic. She declared that a Wisconsin law, that barred people convicted of a felony from owning a gun, to be unconstitutional.
The shift to a 6-3 conservative majority could result in vast changes in terms of access to healthcare, immigration, abortion rights and gun rights. Oral arguments on the Affordable Care Act are scheduled for Nov. 10, and should Barrett’s nomination go through by then, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court could very well bring this particular provision of this law, pertaining to the Individual Mandate Penalty, to its end.
This case is a new challenge to the ACA brought forward by right-wing attorney-generals and the Trump administration, arguing against Congress’s 2017 decision to lower the tax penalty for failure to carry insurance to zero, on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. This, along with the multitude of other arguments, would block access to healthcare for millions of Americans.
Concerns have also been raised about how Barrett would impact immigrant rights because of her support of an effort by the Trump administration to tighten the “public charge” rule, which would allow officials to deny a green card, and thus deny permanent legal status, to immigrants if they are likely to be in need of public assistance, according to Vox.
Courthouse News Service has reported that this “public charge” rule “adds barriers for immigrants seeking green cards if they rely on public benefits, food stamps, or housing vouchers.”
In addition, Barrett has been openly hostile to the LGBTQIA+ community. The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund reported that she has referred to transgender women as “physiological males” when discussing which bathroom transgender people should go to, expressing an obvious prejudice towards trans people.
She has also expressed a very clear bias against same-sex marriage, supporting the conservative views within her church when she signed onto a letter that stated that “marriage and family (are) founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman,” according to the Washington Post.
Many LGBTQIA+ organizations have expressed concerns that Barrett’s religious beliefs, along with her creation of a conservative majority on the panel, which many fear would result in a vote to undo marriage equality, including the Human Rights Campaign and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Barrett stated that she will follow precedent when it comes to ruling on big cases, but this doesn’t answer the question of whether or not she will support the LGBTQIA+ community.
With Barrett filling the seat left by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one must ask themselves what Barrett and a conservative-majority court could mean for Ginsburg’s legacy.
RBG was a pioneer and icon for women’s rights and gender parity, along with support for the LGBTQIA+ community, and Barrett’s nomination, confident in her conservative views and her cementing a conservative-majority Supreme Court, threatens to unravel and undermine all of Ginsburg’s life’s work, legacy and the hard-won rights she fought for.
Kamala Harris, the Democratic nominee for Vice President and California Senator, has stated that Barrett would “undo (Ginsburg’s) legacy and erase everything she did for our country,” according to the New York Times.
It is quite a depressing irony that the great achievements of Ginsburg are at risk of being unraveled by another woman.
“Nominating Amy Coney Barrett is a particular insult to the legacy of Justice Ginsburg. Barrett’s history of hostility toward reproductive health and rights, expanded healthcare access, and more demonstrate that she will put Justice Ginsburg’s long record of ensuring that everyone receives equal justice under the law at risk,” The President of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Alexis McGill Johnson, said in a statement.
An issue of whether or not it is proper for Trump to nominate a new justice only a few months before the 2020 election has been raised by much of the left-wing. A precedent was set in 2016 when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked the nomination of President Obama’s SCOTUS nominee, Merrick Gardner, a whole 10 months prior to the 2016 presidential election, according to the New York Times.
McConnell kept the seat that belonged to the late Antonin Scalia vacant for this time period, claiming that the justice who would fill that seat should be chosen by the next president, and that the choice made by sitting President Obama would be void, according to the New Yorker. No proceedings of any kind were held by the Senate Judiciary Committee for Garland.
However, now McConnell is allowing Trump to sidle Barrett up to the bench a mere eight days after Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing, claiming that this time the situation is different because the Senate and the presidency are held by the same party, which wasn’t the case in 2016, as was stated by the New Yorker’s report.
This explanation is obviously a ploy to cover up the glaring fact that McConnell is trying to fill as many SCOTUS seats with right-wing justices while his party is still in power. In accordance with the precedent that McConnell himself has set forth, RBG’s vacated seat should not be filled until the American people have chosen their next president.
The Senate Judiciary Committee began confirmation hearings on Oct. 12 for Barrett’s nomination.
This nomination has the potential to bring the rights of many Americans, including women, immigrants and LGBTQIA+ individuals into grave peril. While it is reassuring that a woman of Barrett’s intelligence and merit has been able to reach such a great position in a male-dominated field, it is devastating that her achievement may come at the expense of the rights of women nationwide.