Judge Amy Coney Barrett signed a public statement of protest in 2012 against the birth control requirement of the ACA, citing its “assault on religious liberty and the rights of conscience.” In this letter, Barrett described the ACA’s birth control benefit as a “grave infringement on religious liberty”. The statement continued:
“The simple fact is that the Obama administration is compelling religious pereligiople and institutions who are employers to purchase a health-insurance contract that provides abortion-inducing drugs, contraception and sterilization… a grave violation of religious freedom and… an insult to the intelligence of Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims and other people of faith and conscience to imagine that they will accept an assault on their religious liberty if only it is covered up by a cheap accounting trick.”
Abortion/Roe v. Wade
The two are synonymous to a degree, but nuance brings an entire spectrum to the issues that affect medicine. It isn’t so much the legality of abortion, but the lines drawn, method, and requirements tied to the ACA. Judge Barrett has been consistent in her position that Roe v. Wade has remained an established legal mainstay and is likely to remain, but the issues surrounding it may come into question.
Judge Barrett has been a member of a right to life group for years, and has openly shared that she ascribed her views on the evils of abortion in an ad that stated: “In the 40 years since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, over 55 million unborn children have been killed by abortions… we renew our call for the unborn to be protected in law and welcomed in life”.
Support and opposition to Barrett’s views are both with merit, considering that during her career, Barrett has ruled against abortion rights in two cases, one which dealt with seeking an abortion based on reasons of sex or race.
In 2013, Judge Barrett wrote an article in the Texas Law Review, stating that “the public response to… Roe (v. Wade) reflects public rejection of the proposition that (precedent) can declare a permanent victor in a divisive constitutional struggle rather than desire that precedent remain forever unchanging. Court watchers embrace the possibility of overruling”.
In a lecture on the 40th anniversary of the Roe ruling, Barrett said: “I think it is very unlikely at this point that the court is going to overturn (Roe v. Wade)… the fundamental element, that the woman has a right to choose abortion, will probably stand.” In 2016 she remarked, in regards to a conservative Supreme Court: “I don’t think abortion or the right to abortion would change. I think some of the restrictions would change … the question is how much freedom the court is willing to let states have in regulating abortion.”
Understanding the super-precedent is key to understanding Barrett’s impartiality that she tightly embraces. While she may hold personal beliefs, and is willing to honestly face her opposition to abortion itself, as a jurist it is her job to look at the current, text-based status of law, and offer judicial input only as it pertains to issues raised to the court. In her confirmation hearings, Barrett clarified that she did not consider Roe to be a “super-precedent” like Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark case that desegregated schools, because there remain challenges to Roe and efforts to overturn it.
An assumption of the super-precedent would be something so set in stone, that the core of the topic would simply not continue to arise, both in politics and culture. The results surface in the heart of the medical community and how the nation chooses to support the law, financially and legally. Since abortion continues to be the ultimate hot-button issue, it is clear that its precedence can be assumed to continue to be called into question, as it also pertains to contraception and other sensitivities that are embedded.
In a 2017 Senate hearing, Judge Barrett stated that she would “decide cases according to rule of law, beginning to end, and in the rare circumstance that might ever arise… where I felt that I had some conscientious objection to the law, I would recuse”. She added that a “judge may never subvert the law or twist it in any way to match the judge’s convictions from whatever source they derive.”