By Ashley X. ’23
Justice Amy Coney Barrett is undoubtedly a strong and inspirational woman. As a mother of seven, she was able to rise through the ranks of her profession to become the fifth woman to ever serve in the Supreme Court. According to an article by The Washington Post, Justice Barrett is seen as a role model by many, especially conservative women who believe she represents a “new kind” of feminism that challenges “cultural discussions around parenthood and familial responsibility.”
But merely being an inspiration is not enough. Upon closer scrutiny, Justice Barrett stands in stark opposition to her predecessor, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s feminist values and advances. As Justice Ginsburg, who helped to secure equal pay benefits, workplace rights, and education for women, wrote in her book, My Own Words, “Feminism [is the] notion that we should each be free to develop our own talents and not be held back by man-made barriers”. However, Justice Barrett’s political stances make it apparent that instead of continuing to open more doors of opportunity for women, she is intent on closing them.
The Washington Post article also states that former president Donald Trump chose to nominate Justice Barrett largely because of his promises to reverse the Roe v. Wade ruling that gave women the legal right to abortion, as well as the Affordable Care Act. Justice Barrett’s past rulings on the federal appeals court and her personal beliefs make it clear that she is likely to uphold both of these promises.
Before the Supreme Court, Justice Barrett served for three years on the Chicago Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, where she voted consistently with conservative colleagues on hundreds of cases regarding gun control, immigration, and, most notably, abortion. In 2019, she voted in favor of a law that would have mandated doctors to inform the parents of a minor seeking an abortion with no exceptions. She called for a law that sought to ban abortions on the basis of sex, race, disability or life-threatening health conditions to be reheard. Additionally, she was one of five appeals judges who argued that an Indiana state law “requiring burial or cremation for fetal remains” had been constitutional. Justice Barrett’s previous pro-life rulings make it clear that if presented with the opportunity, she may very well be the vote needed to reverse Roe v. Wade.
Beyond her judicial duties, Justice Barrett also strongly opposes abortion on a personal level. In 2006, she signed a petition by an Indiana anti-abortion group that read “We… oppose abortion on demand and defend the right to life from fertilization to natural death. Please continue to pray to end abortion.” Again in 2013, she signed an ad that accused the Roe v. Wade ruling to have “killed 55 million unborn children” and spoke at two anti-abortion events at the University of Notre Dame.
Additionally, Barrett has previously expressed criticism of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which grants free birth control and has reduced racial disparities in health care coverage.It is both disappointing and terrifying to find that Justice Barrett, one of the only women with such vast judicial power, may very well be the tipping point on the Supreme Court to reverse cases such as Roe v. Wade and strip women of our reproductive rights and body autonomy. During today’s Supreme Court hearing, in which conservative-led states will ask to overturn ACA, reporters at The New York Times state that Justice Barrett’s position “was hard to read”. However, she did question the constitutionality of the act and whether Congress had the power to impose a tax that did not generate revenue. The hearing indicated that Justice Barrett will continue to maintain her past conservative viewpoints and will likely side with the other conservative Justices during future rulings regarding women’s rights. In the meantime, she serves as an important reminder that feminism is not about blindly supporting women in power. Rather, it is the effort to continue to protect and secure women’s rights to autonomy, freedom, and equality, something that Justice Barrett does not seem to uphold.