Over the course of a deeply frustrating week, Amy Coney Barrett provided non-answer after non-answer to the Senate Judiciary Committee during her rushed US Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Prior to dodging questions from Republicans and Democrats alike, though, Barrett neglected to disclose anti-abortion speeches she gave as a professor at the Univeristy of Notre Dame, as well as a letter she signed calling for the dismantling of Roe v Wade and the criminalisation of IVF. Now, as the committee prepares to send her nomination to the Senate floor for a vote, another revelation of Barrett’s past has emerged: her barbaric decision to overturn a ruling in favour of a pregnant rape victim. And once again, Barrett is proving to be an undeniable threat to victims of sexual assault.
On 16th October, Salon reported that during her tenure as an appellate court judge, Barrett voted to overturn a district court ruling that found a county in Wisconsin “liable for millions in damages to a woman who alleged she had been repeatedly rape by a jail guard.”
"After a 19-year old pregnant prison inmate was repeatedly raped by a prison guard, Amy Coney Barrett ruled that the county responsible for the prison could not be held liable because the sexual assaults fell outside of the guard's official duties. Her judgment demonstrates a level of unconscionable cruelty that has no place on the high court," Kyle Herrig, president of the watchdog group Accountable.US, told Salon.
But this unconscionable judicial ruling made by the Republican’s purposefully manufactured buttress of “conservative family values and morality” is just one of her many past judicial decisions that highlight how severely Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett will harm sexual assault survivors.
Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which made it possible for 20 million Americans to secure health insurance, being a victim of sexual assault and/or rape (as well as domestic violence) was designated as a “pre-existing condition” and grounds for refusing health care coverage. If Barrett ascends to the Supreme Court and rule to gut the Affordable Care Act — a likely possibility, given that in 2017 she wrote that "Chief Justice Roberts pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save statute” and in 2015 claimed the dissenting judges in a ruling that also upheld the ACA had “the better of the legal argument” — victims of rape and/or sexual assault could once again be legally denied health care coverage.
And if Roe v Wade does fall — another credible inevitability, given Barrett’s anti-abortion sentiments and history of speaking at “pro-life” events while supporting “pro-life” organisations — at least 10 states will immediately make abortion access illegal, the consequence of what are known as “trigger laws.” The laws, which would go into effect as soon as the constitutional right to have an abortion is no longer protected by federal law, would include bans on abortion with no exception for rape or incest cases. In other words, if you’re one of the one in five women who will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, and you live in Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Missouri, Tennessee, South Dakota and Utah, you could be legally forced by the state to carry a pregnancy resulting from rape to term.
Barrett has also argued that Title IX anti-discrimination protections should not be extended to transgender students, claiming that it’s a “strain on the text of the statue.” One 2005 study found that one in two trans people are sexually assaulted or abused during their lifetime, and that perpetuated shame, stigma, and anti-LGBTQ sentiments can inhibit a trans victim of sexual assault from coming forward and subjecting themselves to necessary physical exams or medical treatments. And when lesbian, gay, and bisexual people experience sexual violence at higher rates than cis or straight people, having a judge on the Supreme Court who believes their sexual orientation is a “preference” only stands to cause them additional harm.
Barrett refused to answer straightforward questions about her judicial positions in an attempt to shield her true identity from the American people. But all the tip-toeing and question-dodging can’t hide the truth her past judicial rulings have long-revealed about who she is as a person, as a judge, and who she will be as a Supreme Court Justice — a living, breathing detriment to sexual assault survivors everywhere.