As of October 26, 2020, Justice Amy Coney Barrett has been confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States. Justice Barrett will fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who passed away last month after serving on the SCOTUS for 27 years. Barrett's confirmation on Monday saw a 52-48 Senate vote, which is the first time in over a century a Justice was confirmed with zero support from the minority party, just eight days out from the 2020 US election on November 3. Now, in the blatant act of bad faith that is Justice Barrett's confirmation, the notoriously far-right figure is solidified in the court, filling the shoes of a Justice who fought her entire life for womens liberation.
The first and most urgent concern that comes to mind is that of abortion rights in the US, and the question of Barrett's intent to overturn Roe v. Wade, the constitutional right which protects a pregnant woman's liberty to choose to have an abortion.
What is Barrett's stance on abortion?
Barrett is a conservative catholic whose personal stance is anti-abortion. During her confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court, Barrett avoided the question of how she might rule on Roe or abortion rights, and was unclear in her stance. In 2016, NPR reports that she suggested the court most likely would leave the basic right to abortion in place, but allow statewide latitude to make abortion difficult to obtain.
"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," Barrett reportedly said in a discussion at Jacksonville University.
"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."
Barrett has additionally voted twice in favour of abortion restrictions, and she has reportedly commented on her belief that "life begins at conception,". Her stance on abortion rights can also be directly linked to the Affordable Care Act, and the jeopardy that her stance on both puts each in. Considering the Affordable Care Act provides the accessibility to affordable health insurance, this increases access to maternal healthcare in turn (in which the ability to have pregnancy care despite having a c-section and no copay contraception guarantee is provided). Justice Barrett has been vocal about her stance on the ACA for some time now. The court has managed to uphold much of the ACA law twice in the past when it's been challenged, but that could change with Barrett's vote, and the next hearing challenging it is scheduled for November 10, 2020.
Could Barrett overturn Roe V. Wade?
When Trump ran for president in 2016, CBS reports that he promised that if elected, Roe v. Wade would be automatically overturned because would make his shortlist for the Supreme Court. Now, just days after Barrett's confirmation, there are already two abortion cases that have reached the Supreme Court, with 17 cases one-step away from reaching SCOTUS, should the upcoming two be denied. "Some are test cases to overturn Roe v. Wade or to render it meaningless by upholding laws that make abortion impossible to access. In the strategy to end abortion access in the U.S., courts are the linchpin," Nancy Northup, the president and chief executive officer of the Center for Reproductive Rights told CBS.
This is important to note, because it speaks to the fact that Roe v. Wade doesn't necessarily need to be overturned in order for abortion rights to become severely restricted or even stripped away. With many red states already functioning as 'abortion deserts', where loophole regulations have been put into effect to restrict people from having safe and accessible choice-affirming care, these lines are becoming blurred over time.
The core holding of Roe v. Wade legalised abortion until fetal viability, which is around 24 weeks of pregnancy. Among these 17 cases is a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi, which CBS reports challenges Roe. It is reported that the court cannot uphold this ban without reversing Roe v. Wade.
In short, Justice Barrett may not go directly after Roe v. Wade, but with her clear stance on abortion restrictions which were made even more clear with after signing two separate advertisements that call for the end of Roe, the way she rules on the upcoming cases will be imperative to its relevancy.
Image credit: @amyconeybarrett