With a vacant seat in the US Supreme Court following the Friday passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, President Donald Trump says he is determined to fill her spot, vowing to nominate a new judge as early as this Friday or Saturday. "I will be putting forth a nominee next week. It will be a woman," Trump said during a 19th Sept rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, just one day after Ginsburg died and her family stated that she hoped “not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
While rumoured nominees include Barbara Lagoa of the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, and fellow appeals court judge Allison Jones Rushing, there is one woman who appears to be the frontrunner to flip RBG’s seat: Judge Amy Coney Barrett. And with her name making the top of nearly every speculative list, many are now wondering who Barrett is and what she really stands for.
Amy Coney Barrett currently serves the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, a position she was appointed to by Trump in 2017. A Notre Dame Law School graduate, she began her career in 1998 as a clerk for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Under his tutelage, Barrett honed conservative beliefs, including standing against abortion, and has been described as Scalia’s “ideological heir.”
According to those who have studied her career more closely, like Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List anti-abortion political group, Barrett is “a woman who brings the argument to the court that is potentially the contrary to the views of the sitting women justices.” And by all accounts, this appears to be true, and Barrett plans to continue Scalia’s anti-abortion legacy.
During her 2017 confirmation hearing, she made clear that in her new role as judge, she would follow the Supreme Court’s lead in looking to restrict and ban abortion. This is particularly important, considering that in 2018, she was also under consideration to fill the Supreme Court seat that is now occupied by Brett Kavanaugh.
The following year, she joined a dissenting opinion in an appeals court case of Planned Parenthood Of Indiana And Kentucky vs. Indiana Health Commissioner, which determined an Indiana law banning patients from having abortions if their foetuses had disabilities — including life-threatening ones.
But Barrett’s positions on abortion stem from her personal background and strong religious beliefs. In 2002, she joined her Catholic university’s faculty. At the time, fellow educators actively opposed ideas of secularisation, and especially the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.
“Life begins at conception,” she told Notre Dame Magazine, who also described Barrett’s view on Roe v. Wade as "creating through judicial fiat a framework of abortion on demand.”
For her part, Barrett is a practicing Roman Catholic and mother of seven. She is well-known throughout conservative circles for putting her religious convictions at the forefront of her work and identity. “Her religious convictions are pro-life, and she lives those convictions,” said US district Judge Patrick J. Schiltz, one of her mentors.
“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 would change,” Barrett said during a talk she gave on Roe v. Wade at Jacksonville University in 2016.
Barrett's nomination could stand to change everything for the Supreme Court. On Nov. 10, when the Supreme Court is back in session, they will once again hear arguments challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. With Barrett in the seat, women’s access to reproductive health could be in serious jeopardy. If Trump does nominate Barrett — a noted anti-abortionist — it would solidify fears for millions of Democrats: a 6-3 conservative majority in the Supreme Court that will most definitely derail years of inclusive healthcare initiatives.
And, considering Ginsburg’s tenure protecting women’s rights and elevating social justice initiatives, Trump would actively be opposing her legacy by appointing Barrett, putting millions of vulnerable people at risk.
“Amy Coney Barrett meets Donald Trump’s two main litmus tests,” Nan Aron, the president of Alliance for Justice, told the New York Times. “She has made clear she would invalidate the ACA and take health care away from millions of people and undermine a woman’s reproductive freedom.”