The Confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett: What Does This Mean for America?


White House

Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice on October 26 after being confirmed by the Senate.

On the evening of October 26th, the Senate confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court with a vote of 52-48. This vote occurred 30 days following her nomination by President Trump and a week before election day. Following this vote and her confirmation, Amy Coney Barrett will serve on the Supreme Court for the remainder of her life, or until she retires, filling Justice Ginsburg’s seat. At the White House ceremony following the vote, Trump expressed that it was a “momentous day” for the United States and continued to praise Barrett for her intellect. Now that Barrett serves such a prominent role in the United States government, it is crucial to understand her role in America’s future.

At 48 years old, Barrett is the youngest Supreme Court Justice to be confirmed. Conversations about Barret are often dominated by information regarding her background, such as her rather conservative and Catholic upbringing. Growing up in New Orleans, she was raised around her religion and she later attended the University of Notre Dame for law school, a Catholic College. After completing law school, Barrett was hired for a clerkship with Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away in February of 2016. Through her time with him, she picked up his beliefs of textualism and originalism, meaning that the sole purpose of a Supreme Court Justice is not to change or make adaptations to the Constitution, but instead decipher its original meaning. This belief system sets up Barrett to be an interesting judge, whose time has already been marked by controversy.

Less than a week after Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing this past September, President Trump announced he was nominating Barrett to fill the open seat. Trump had previously nominated Barrett for the 7th Circuit of the US Court of Appeals in 2017, and more recently mentioned how he was saving her to fill Ginsburg’s seat. With such a large seat to fill so incredibly close to an election, Barrett’s views and tactics related to the law are almost equally as important as the results in the upcoming election.

One of the topics that has been widely addressed recently is the possible repeal of Roe V. Wade. The decision up for debate was ruled on in January of 1973. It legalized the procedure of abortion across the entire country; however recently there has been some pushback. Planned Parenthood, a pro-choice organization, has provided statistics on the general public’s feelings, reporting that around 73% of Americans do not want to see the result of the case overturned. Planned Parenthood also states that illegal abortions cause ⅙ of pregnancy related deaths and overturning the ruling would put over 25 million women at risk, threatening reproductive health across the country. 

As for Amy Coney Barrett’s thoughts on the ruling, she deflected questions about her stances on abortion during her hearing with the US Senate. It is known though, that her rulings tend to align with conservative beliefs in cases about issues such as abortion, gun rights, discrimination, and immigration. Her court in the past has attempted to tighten requirements for minors seeking to get abortions. As a Supreme Court Justice, she claims she would not impose her own personal convictions on interpretations of the law. In general, justices are not supposed to interpret laws based on personal bias, although at times, the left and right ends of the bench end up separating on their interpretations. With her past conservative stances, and the fact the ruling is even being questioned regardless of the judges, women across the country fear the possibilities of how their reproductive rights may be impacted, and possibly taken away.

November 10th, the week following the election, the Supreme Court will hear a challenge of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Given Barrett was nominated by President Trump, and based on Trump’s views combined with her conservative leanings, it can be inferred that she may have some bias moving into the ruling. If the court rules the ACA as unconstitutional, around 20 million people would lose their health insurance. Depending on what parts of the law are removed, insurers would be allowed to discriminate based on health status, charge more or deny coverage for certain diagnoses, charge higher premiums to women, and much more. Filling one of the most influential roles in this country, Barrett’s vote, along with the other 8 justices, will impact tens of millions of Americans.

Just as people are concerned with their health care rights, many are worried about LGBTQIAPK+ rights. Earlier this month, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a statement in which he called on the court to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, the civil rights case that ruled the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to couples of the same sex. Thomas wrote that until the ruling is overturned, it will have ruinous consequences for religious liberty (Thomas, 58). This then becomes an issue about the freedom of religion in this country, the separation of church and state, and whether someone’s personal choices are unconstitutional by hindering another’s ability to follow the religion of their choosing. With Barrett typically leaning towards conservative rulings and the bench now leaning to the right 6-3, many fear that Obergfell v. Hodges will be overturned, threatening the rights of the LGBTQIAPK+ community. 

Much of the controversy surrounding her nomination and confirmation dates back to the last election year. In 2016, following the passing of Justice Scalia, the Republican-led Senate would not hold a hearing for President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, to fill the open seat on the bench. The reasoning behind the Republicans’ refusal was that it was 8 months before an election. They believed that the people should elect the next president, and then let that president fill the open seat. Recently, the Republican-led Senate did not hold the same standards for President Trump, who nominated Barrett one month before the election. This brings up the conversation of political parties and how both the Democratic and Republican parties act in ways that would support their own agenda. 

Members of the Democratic party have also spoken out against her nomination and hearing prior to Barrett’s confirmation. Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority leader from New York, called the nomination from President Donald Trump a “cynical power grab” (Sprunt, 1). Schumer added that the decision should be made after the election because “the American people deserved a voice in the selection of their next justice” (Sprunt, 1).

As Americans, why does the decision to confirm Barrett as a judge matter? For one, her role is not a term that will end in four years. She will be serving a lifetime on the Supreme Court along with 8 others, who make some of the biggest decisions in this country. The Supreme Court interprets the law of the land and has the power to be one of the most influential roles in the government. It is essential that the people of the United States recognize how Barrett’s confirmation to the bench could influence every American’s life for the remainder of her time serving. Her confirmation and the upcoming election hovering over the minds of almost every American leads this country to wonder– What will happen next and where do we go from here?