Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump’s pick to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, has only been a judge for three years, but she’s already made her far-right, religiously influenced views on abortion apparent in her judicial record. If she is confirmed, Barrett will move the Supreme Court even further to the right, endangering the right to abortion established by Roe v. Wade. Although that historic decision has already been chipped away at by conservative lawmakers (and is basically meaningless in several states), the addition of Barrett would be particularly important as 17 abortion-related cases are just one step away from the Supreme Court, and three could be taken up in its next session.
What is Amy Coney Barrett’s personal stance on abortion?
Barrett has made plenty of anti-choice statements, referring to abortion as "always immoral" in her nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals. In a 2013 speech on Roe v. Wade, Barrett reportedly said that life begins at conception. These views not only reflect Catholic doctrine (Barrett is Catholic), but also those of her mentor, the late conservative justice Antonin Scalia, for whom she worked as a law clerk from 1998 to 1999. Scalia was a textualist who has written that because the Constitution has nothing to say about abortion, each state should decide the matter for itself.
What is Amy Coney Barrett’s judicial record on abortion?
During her three years on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, Barrett cast votes on two abortion-related cases, and both times she favored restrictions on the procedure.
In Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky Inc., the 7th Circuit voted to block an Indiana law that required parental notification for minors seeking abortions. While it is constitutional for states to require this consent, there also needs to be judicial bypass, allowing minors to demonstrate that they can make the decision on their own, and that notifying their parents would not be in their best interest; Indiana’s law did not have judicial bypass. Barrett joined the dissent, arguing that the law should have been allowed to take effect, and that it’s a matter of states’ rights: “Preventing a state statute from taking effect is a judicial act of extraordinary gravity in our federal structure.”
In Commissioner of the Indiana State Department of Health v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky Inc., a panel of the 7th Circuit declined to rehear a law that had been struck down, which required fetal remains from abortion procedures and miscarriages be buried or cremated. Barrett was one of the dissenters, who argued that the case should be heard: “Many states have laws that prescribe how animals’ remains must be handled. The panel has held invalid a statute that would be sustained had it concerned the remains of cats or gerbils.” The Supreme Court later upheld the law.
Barrett also used the dissent as a platform to opine on a part of the law that wasn’t even being considered, which banned abortions for “reasons related to sex, race, or disability,” that a lower court had struck down saying it violated Roe v. Wade. But Barrett and the other dissenters still argued that the law is a “eugenics statute” and that “none of the Court’s abortion decisions holds that states are powerless to prevent abortions designed to choose the sex, race, and other attributes of children.”
Does Amy Coney Barrett want to overturn Roe v. Wade?
According to a recent poll, two-thirds of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and overwhelmingly oppose overturning Roe v. Wade. Reproductive rights advocates have vowed to fight Barrett’s nomination.
“Nominating Amy Coney Barrett is a particular insult to the legacy of Justice Ginsburg,” Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Alexis McGill Johnson said in a statement provided to Refinery29. “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.”