Amy Coney Barrett’s Confirmation: Who She is & What it Means for the American People

The Senate confirmed Amy Coney Barrett as the ninth Supreme Court justice late in the afternoon of October 26th. Her confirmation fills the previous seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. This news comes as no surprise to people that have been tuning in to her hearing and the nomination process. Her confirmation comes after a clear split between party lines, 52-48. It is important to note that the nominee received no votes from the minority party (Democrats) and there was only one Republican that voted over their party line. This confirmation is *unprecedented* (yeah, I am tired of that word too, but alas it is ever prevalent) due to the youth of the nominee and that the nomination, and now confirmation, happened weeks before the presidential election. 

Who is Amy Coney Barrett?

The latest supreme court justice was a long-time academic having studied at the University of Notre Dame, graduated first in her class, then taught there for 18 years. Barrett was also previously the clerk to former Justice Antonin Gregory Scalia, who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court from 1986 until his passing in 2016. Like Justice Scalia, Barret is also an originalist.

Originalism is a school of thought surrounding Constitutional interpretation, asserting that all statements in the Constitution should be interpreted with the understanding at the time it was adopted. In short, this school of thought takes verbiage and context from a document finished in 1788 and applies it to the laws and lives of the 21st century.

During her confirmation hearing, starting October 19th and ending on October 26th, Amy made sure to cross her “T”’s and dot her “I”’s - not with details, but by giving nothing away. During questioning from a variety of senators of the committee, Barrett gave none of her stances away, repeating that she had no agenda. At one point during the hearing, Barrett was asked if it was lawful of Trump to delay the presidential election past November 3rd, and still, Barrett answered she could not answer. She stated, “Senator, if that question ever came before me, I would need to hear arguments from the litigants, and read briefs, and consult with my law clerks, and talk to my colleagues, and go through the opinion-writing process”.  

Another main point in the hearing was questioning surrounding Barret’s deep religious affiliation with a conservative Christian faith group, People of Praise. People of Praise, a small religious group with just 1,650 members, holds a strict view on human sexuality, rejecting openly queer people and embracing traditional gender norms.

What this means for the Supreme Court

During the Trump presidency, the administration was able to nominate and confirm three Supreme Court justices, cementing a conservative legacy in the court. As a result of the judges being lifelong positions, them being confirmed under the Trump presidency will make a lasting impact on the American justice system and therefore the American people. The Supreme Court is now a six-three conservative majority, leaving an indentation in the courts of Trump’s time in office. The most damning thing about the conservative majority is that the court fails to represent the people it rules for. The justices and their held beliefs do not reflect the demographics, nor the widespread beliefs of Americans. The American people are not represented in the highest court of the land.

What this means for the American people

On multiple occasions, Trump has stated that his nominees and now promoted justices will work to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Barrett has previously criticized the decision of the Obama administration and signed a petition against mandating employers to provide access to birth control. She also wrote that Justice John Roberts, "pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning." Americans across the country are worried that she, along with the other five conservative justices, will repeal the Affordable Care Act during the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving millions of people without affordable healthcare.

The Affordable Care Act is not the only type of healthcare on the line. Abortion rights and Roe v. Wade may also be under fire with Barret’s confirmation. COVID-19 has shown to disproportionately affect women, specifically women of color. Women hold 1/3 of essential worker jobs, but the Trump administration has continued to push through legislation, and now a Supreme Court justice, that does not support healthcare nor abortion rights for the American people. The majority of Americans, ¾ to be exact, support the landmark ruling of Roe v. Wade that made abortion legal in the United States. Barret is replacing the seat of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an icon to the liberal left and lifelong champion of women’s rights. However, Barret is the exact opposite of Ginsburg, as she has consistently tied herself to anti-choice rulings, even writing, “public response to controversial cases like Roe reflects public rejection of the proposition that [precedent] can declare a permanent victor in a divisive constitutional struggle rather than desire that the precedent remain forever unchanging" in a Texas Law Review article. Additionally, she has stated that her views do not align with the super precedent of Roe v. Wade and do not believe in the practice of adhering to previously established precedent.

Looking to the future

I am not going to sugarcoat it: the future seems bleak. With the confirmation of a judge that does not support healthcare, abortion rights, LGBTQ+ rights, equal pay and will not clarify their stance on racial justice, it seems like a fight for equality and eventual equity on a national scale is scarce. We as the public, the citizens of the United States, may not be able to stop the judicial branch, but we can impact the executive and legislative branches. So, as if to end on a hopeful note, PLEASE, I beg of you, VOTE! Whether by mail or in person, get those ballots in by November third.