Courts Health Politics Reproductive Rights

Trump Nominates Conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett to Fill RBG’s Seat

President Trump announced that he will nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Barrett is a staunch conservative with opposite views of Justice Ginsburg’s.

Judge Barrett is a member of the religious group People of Praise, which “preaches women’s subordination to men and until recently called female advisers to other women ‘handmaids.’” The group is known for its belief that women should submit to their husbands. 

In her confirmation hearing in 2017 to the Seventh Circuit, Barrett said that her religious beliefs would never interfere with her ability to be impartial as a judge. However, she has also said that “legal careers ought not to be seen as a means of gaining satisfaction, prestige, or money, but rather ‘as a means to the end of serving God’”. 

Barrett is an originalist– as a member of the Federalist Society, she interprets the Constitution by searching for the original intent of the text. She also clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia, who led the right-wing of the Supreme Court before his death in 2016.

Her confirmation to the bench would have major impact on a range of feminist issues, including reproductive rights, health care, education, gun control, racial justice, and LGBTQ+ protections. 

Trump ran on a campaign promise to appoint judges who would overrule Roe v. Wade, and has said that appointing Barrett would make it “certainly possible” that the decision could be undermined or overruled. Anti-abortion groups like the Susan B. Anthony List have expressed unwavering support for the judge. 

Barrett has criticized Chief Justice John Roberts for upholding the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and signed a letter in 2012 opposing contraceptive coverage as part of the ACA. Her appointment could be dangerous for the ACA, which will go before the court again on November 10th in California v. Texas

Her appointment will also likely mean an expanded Second Amendment– the NRA praised her record, saying that the Senate should “act swiftly to confirm her”. Future decisions surrounding the Second Amendment could chip away at years of gun control progress.

On the Seventh Circuit, Barrett has demonstrated anti-civil rights positions. She “weakened Title VII of the Civil Rights Act— siding against a Black worker whose employer established a ‘separate but equal’ policy of segregating employees by race”. She also weakened Title IX protections, easing the process for students to sue their schools for sex discrimination after being held accountable for sexual assault.

While some claim that Barrett represents a “new” or “conservative” version of feminism, her appointment to the highest court in the land could pose a real threat to the lives of women across the country. The Alliance for Justice said in their statement, “if Congress has enacted a law to protect the American people, Barrett will find a way to eviscerate its protections”. 

Sources: New York Times 9/26/20; Ms. Magazine 9/26/20; The Guardian 9/26/20; Alliance for Justice 9/26/20; USEEOC v. AutoZone, Inc. 11/2017