After 27 years served on the Supreme Court, the renowned Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away due to metastatic pancreatic cancer on September 18, 2020. Shortly after, President Donald Trump made the controversial decision to nominate conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill Ginsburg’s spot.
Judge Barrett was a beloved professor to her students at Notre Dame Law School, where she taught for 15 years and was voted best professor three times. A mother of seven with a Catholic background, President Trump noted that Barrett will be “the first mother of school-aged children ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.”
After earning her B.A. in English literature, magna cum laude, from Rhodes College, and graduating first in her J.D. class at Notre Dame, Judge Barrett was a clerk for Associate Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court. Justice Scalia was known for his emphasis on originalism, the idea that the Constitution should be interpreted as it was originally intended by the Founders. He served as an important mentor to the young Judge Barrett.
“His judicial philosophy is mine too— a judge must apply the law as written,” Judge Barrett stated. “Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold.”
With Judge Barrett’s extensive list of qualifications, the unrest among Democrats following her nomination is certainly not due to her competency as a judge; rather, the dispute lies with her far-right history of judicial rulings. Judge Barrett’s opposition to Roe v. Wade (a ruling protecting abortion rights nationally) and the Affordable Care Act has presented a strong contrast from Justice Ginsburg’s beliefs, who was a strong advocate for both.
“Justice Ginsburg must be turning over in her grave up in heaven, to see that the person they chose seems to be intent on undoing all the things that Ginsburg did,” commented Senator Chuck Schumer of New York.
In the past, Judge Barrett has made her position in the abortion debate clear. Shortly after being named to the 7th circuit, as a dissenter, she sided in support of an Indiana law barring abortions based on fetal disability or gender. Although dissenters did not have the final say in the case, the “anti-eugenics law,” as they referred to, clearly exhibited her conservative ideals.
In another dissent in 2019, Judge Barrett ruled that she would like to see a nullification of the federal law prohibiting convicts from owning guns, specifically in the case of those who have committed nonviolent crimes.
“History does not support the proposition that felons lose their Second Amendment rights solely because of their status as felons,” she remarked. “But it does support the proposition that the state can take the right to bear arms away from a category of people that it deems dangerous.”
In the case of health care, Judge Barrett has historically been opposed to any national distribution of it, declaring the Affordable Care Act as pushed “beyond its plausible meaning to save the statue.”
In the case that Judge Barrett is confirmed, the Supreme Court would hold a 6-to-3 ratio of conservative votes to liberal ones, putting important issues of abortion rights, gun rights, and health care up for grabs.