Amy Coney Barrett: A Vote Too Far?

Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court is a setback for progressive causes. Barrett’s conservative voting record jeopardizes women’s reproductive rights and healthcare for the majority of people in the time of a pandemic. 

The Republican led Senate wasted little time in confirming her on a mostly party line vote, just nine days before election day. The vote came just 30 days after she was nominated by President Trump to fill the seat of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a pioneering justice and liberal icon, generating further controversy. 

At only 48 years old, Amy Coney Barrett becomes the youngest woman to ever sit in the Supreme Court. A graduate of Notre Dame Law school, Barrett taught at her alma mater while serving on the federal bench. Amy Coney Barrett also clerked under Justice Scalia, and, like her mentor, is described as a supporter of an originalist interpretation of the Constitution.

While Barrett is only the fifth woman to serve on the Supreme Court, her views on women’s rights are the antithesis of Ginsberg’s ideals, and with a lifetime appointment, her views will undoubtedly shape the court for years to come. With Barrett as the new justice, many worry for the future.

“That could affect my rights as a woman for abortion rights, and my rights as an immigrant to even be here to begin with, and it’s very scary.” said sophomore Amna Al-Azdee when asked how Barrett’s confirmation will affect her personally as a woman in an ethnic minority.

Barrett’s arrival has a lot of people questioning whether or not she will help to overturn the landmark case of Roe v. Wade, which made abortion legal in the United States. A devout Catholic, Barrett claims she will not let her personal beliefs affect her judgement and application of the law. Although Barrett has not ruled on abortion cases herself, she has voted on revisiting many abortion opposition rulings, proving those statements ring hollow.

In a 2016 panel discussion at Jacksonville University, Barrett implied that the Supreme Court most likely would not overturn the overall decision on Roe v. Wade, but could limit specifics regarding access and impose other restrictions. 

“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,” Barrett explained. 

If further restrictions are imposed, women can say goodbye to safe options. From Trump’s nomination of three conservative justices during his four-year term, the outright reversal of Roe v. Wade is now seemingly possible. Unfortunately, even Biden’s recent election may not alter the overall conservative bent court.

In addition, the future of Obamacare could be at stake with her confirmation. A week after the election, the Court heard challenges to the law with Justice Barrett newly seated, and is predicting results within next spring. In two prior cases the Court narrowly upheld the law, but in this case, a vote from Barrett could prove detrimental to its survival. 

“Chief Justice Roberts pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute. He construed the penalty imposed on those without health insurance as a tax, which permitted him to sustain the statute as a valid exercise of the taxing power,” wrote Barrett in a 2017 law review essay. 

If Barrett rules against the law in the new case, tens of millions of Americans could lose health insurance (including people with pre-existing health conditions). Barrett has previously praised Justice Scalia’s approach to the Affordable Health Care Act, which he found unconstitutional under the commerce clause, hinting at how she might vote in the challenge. 

These are only two examples of how Justice Barrett will change the Court; voting rights affirmative action, environmental regulation, and labor right/employment law are examples of other topics that will be affected by her addition. While there’s much to be admired about Justice Barrett’s life story, her ascension to the supreme court jeopardizes many of the rights that have long been taken for granted. 

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