What Is Amy Coney Barrett's Stance on Abortion Rights and Roe v. Wade?

Erica Gonzales
·6 mins read
Photo credit: Robert Franklin - AP
Photo credit: Robert Franklin - AP

From Harper's BAZAAR

President Donald Trump has nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett as the next Supreme Court justice to fill the spot left behind by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away on September 18 after nearly three decades on the bench.

Barrett, 48, is a 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judge and was previously on Trump's SCOTUS short list before he nominated Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 to succeed retiring justice Anthony Kennedy. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is likely to approve her nomination as he said shortly after Justice Ginsburg's passing that he plans to confirm the president's selection. Judge Barrett's Senate confirmation hearings have already begun.

Considered a "home run by conservative Christians and anti-abortion activists," according to The New York Times, Barrett's potential arrival to the Supreme Court has supporters of abortion rights questioning if she will overturn the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade, which made abortion legal in the United States. A devout Catholic, Barrett has personal opinions against abortion but has said that she won't let those beliefs affect her work as a judge.

She doesn't think the core of Roe v. Wade would change.

In 2016, Barrett implied that the Supreme Court likely wouldn't overturn the overall decision on Roe, but that specifics on access and state-sanctioned restrictions could change. "I don't think the core case, Roe's core holding that women have a right to an abortion, I don't think that would change," she said in a talk at Jacksonville University, per NPR. "But I think the question of whether people can get very late-term abortions, you know, how many restrictions can be put on clinics, I think that will change."

She wrote about the Catholic Church's stance that abortion is "always immoral."

During the nomination process for the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2017, Barrett was asked about a 1998 Notre Dame Law School article in which she referred to abortion as "always immoral." In response, Barrett explained that she and her co-author were recounting "the Catholic Church’s teaching that “abortion . . . is always immoral." She added, "If I am confirmed, my views on this or any other question will have no bearing on the discharge of my duties as a judge."

Later in the article, Barrett and her co-author conclude that Catholic judges should try to keep the Church's teachings and the law separate. "Judges cannot—nor should they try to—align our legal system with the Church's moral teaching whenever the two diverge. They should, however, conform their own behavior to the Church's standard," they wrote.

She clerked for Justice Scalia.

The late Justice Scalia was known as a staunch opponent of abortion rights and critic of Roe v. Wade. "Justice Antonin Scalia, for whom I clerked, is the justice I know best, and I admire the fluidity of his thought, the clarity of his writing, and his careful attention to statutory and constitutional text," Barrett said in the same 2017 questioning. She also mentioned that she admired Justice Elena Kagan and Chief Justice John Marshall.

She has support from anti-abortion groups.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List, has high praise for Barrett. "She is the perfect combination of brilliant jurist and a woman who brings the argument to the court that is potentially the contrary to the views of the sitting women justices," Dannenfelser said in a statement to CBS News. Americans United for Life and the president of Judicial Crisis Network have also supported Barrett.

She signed an anti-abortion advertisement in 2006.

As a law professor for Notre Dame, Barrett signed a newspaper ad opposing "abortion on demand," according to The New York Times. She was one of the hundreds who signed the advertisement, but even so, the Times pointed out that this was her first direct display of her views on abortion.

"We, the following citizens of Michiana [a region overlapping Indiana and Michigan], oppose abortion on demand and defend the right to life from fertilization to natural death," read part of the statement by St. Joseph County Right to Life, one of the country's "oldest continuously active pro-life organizations." It's now named Right to Life Michiana.

Later, the statement said, "It's time to put an end to the barbaric legacy of Roe v. Wade and restore laws that protect the lives of unborn children."

She has signed a letter that mentions "the value of human life from conception to natural death."

In 2015, Barrett was one of the many Catholic women signees of a letter to the synod of bishops. One of the several tenets in the letter read:

We give witness that the Church’s teachings—on the dignity of the human person and the value of human life from conception to natural death; on the meaning of human sexuality, the significance of sexual difference and the complementarity of men and women; on openness to life and the gift of motherhood; and on marriage and family founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman—provide a sure guide to the Christian life, promote women’s flourishing, and serve to protect the poor and most vulnerable among us.

In 2012, she also signed an opposition to the Affordable Care Act's requirement that employers allow contraceptives to be included in health insurance plans. "The reason for the original bipartisan uproar was the administration’s insistence that religious employers, be they institutions or individuals, provide insurance that covered services they regard as gravely immoral and unjust," part of the statement reads.

She doesn't think judges should let their "personal convictions" cloud their decision-making.

In a tense questioning in 2017, Senator Diane Feinstein expressed concern that "the dogma lives loudly within" Barrett, meaning, the judge's devout Catholic beliefs could influence her decision-making on the bench. Barrett said her views have evolved, per Associated Press, and asserted that she believes judges should not "follow their personal convictions in the decision of a case, rather than what the law requires."

She has voted to revisit abortion opposition rulings.

As Reuters points out, although Barrett has not ruled on abortion cases herself, she has casted telling votes on oppositions to certain restrictions on the procedure. For example, after an Indiana law that required fetal remains to be buried or cremated after an abortion was ruled unconstitutional, she voted to rehear the case. In 2019, when a panel ruled to maintain a challenge to an Indiana law that required parents to be notified if a minor is seeking an abortion, she voted to rehear the case too.

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