On October 27th, Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the US Supreme Court.
After the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there was great controversy over her replacement in the Supreme Court. Donald Trump’s pick was no other than Amy Coney Barrett. Trump took the vacancy in the bench as an opportunity to tip the court even further to the right. Barrett’s stances on gun rights, immigration, and abortion make her a reliable vote on the court’s right, just as Ginsburg was on the left.
Judge Barrett lives in South Bend, Indiana, with her husband Jesse, with their seven children. She graduated first in her class at the University of Notre Dame’s Law School and has seen much of her career as a Notre Dame professor, and was then selected by Trump to serve as a federal appeals court judge in 2017. There is no denying that Barrett is an extremely educated woman with experience; however, what will her place on the bench mean for America’s future?
One of Barrett’s most significant criticisms is her practice of originalism, meaning she believes the constitution is fixed from when it was adopted and that it can change only by constitutional amendments. This theory assumes the First Amendment means the same thing as when it was adopted in 1791 and the 14th amendment means the same as when it was ratified in 1868. Barrett stated in a senate hearing on October 13th referring to the constitution,” the text is text, and I understand it to have the meaning that it had at the time people ratified it… it does not change over time, and it is not up to me to update it or infuse my own views into it.” The prominent issue with this statement and the ideals of originalism is that they dampen progressive movements such as women’s and LBGTQ+ rights. Ruth Bader Ginsburg held essentially the opposite mindset, believing that as the climate of the culture changes, so must the law.
Throughout American history, the Supreme Court has rejected originalism because countless protected rights cannot possibly be justified under that theory. Regarding the future of abortions, Judge Barrett refused to state in recent senate hearings whether or not she would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, but as an originalist who agrees with the judicial philosophy of Justice Antonin Scalia – who repeatedly and unequivocally urged that Roe be overruled – the legality of abortions under Judge Barrett is highly at risk.
Additionally, Barrett’s past speaks for itself. Judge Barrett has considered three laws restricting abortions from her home state Indiana. In one case, her court ruled to throw out a law that tightened the requirements for notifying parents of minors seeking abortions, but Barrett voted to keep the law, claiming the ruling was premature and the law should have been allowed to go into effect. It is unlikely that Barrett would vote to uphold Roe v. Wade when she has openly supported strict abortion laws.
Additionally, Barrett’s faith poses a threat to the LBGTQ+ community. Barrett belongs to the religious group “People of Praise” (POP). Craig Lent, the current POP leader, stated that the “charismatic Christian community” would end the membership of a person who discloses gay sex. Barrett has never openly discussed her affiliation with POP, but media reports have pointed out her longstanding membership based on her work as a trustee at a POP affiliated school, which required her to be a member, in addition to her father’s role as a previous leader in the group, alongside the proven report that she was listed as a handmaid (female leader) in a 2010 POP directory.
When referring to the LGBTQ+ community Barrett initially used the widely denounced term “sexual preference” to refer to Americans’ sexual orientations, sparking widespread criticism from the LGBTQ+ community and advocates. She additionally refused to say whether she agreed with the landmark 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex marriage is a constitutionally protected right. Although she claims, “I do want to be clear that I have never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference and would not ever discriminate on the basis of sexual preference,” it seems quite counterproductive to use the term “preference” when making such a statement.
Additionally, when senator Harris asked Barrett her view of climate change, Barrett made it clear that she believed it to be “a politically controversial topic” and that this global threat is a matter of public debate.
This piece is not one to slam Barrett for her views, as I know many Americans do share them. However, Barrett’s position on the bench will be one far from Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an American icon who changed the law to agree with the culture of the nation. Undoubtedly, Barrett brings a far-right position to an already right-sided bench, leaving the future of women’s rights, the LGBTQ+ community, and American citizens’ health in danger.