Trump's pick to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court was asked about several hot-button topics during the Senate hearings this week.

By Christopher Luu
Updated Oct 15, 2020 @ 11:45 am
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Just days after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, President Donald Trump named Amy Coney Barrett as his pick to replace her seat. Now, after days of questioning from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the vote to approve her nomination to the Supreme Court is scheduled for Oct. 22, despite Democrats urging the Senate to wait until after the election.

So who is Judge Amy Coney Barrett?

Currently, Barrett, 48 years old, is a judge on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. NPR notes that conservatives see "view her record as anti-abortion rights and hostile to the Affordable Care Act." If confirmed, Barrett would be the youngest justice on the highest court in America.

"She was the plan all along. She's the most distinguished and qualified by traditional measures. She has the strongest support among the legal conservatives who have dedicated their lives to the court. She will contribute most to the court's jurisprudence in the years and decades to come," a former senior administration told CNN.

Back in 2018, when Justice Anthony Kennedy retired, Barrett was a name on Trump's shortlist, though he ended up giving the nomination to then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh. At the time, he said that he was "saving" Barrett to fill Ginsburg's seat if she passed away or decided to retire. When she met with Trump, sources close to the process said that she was ill and didn't offer the best first impression.

"She had conjunctivitis, had to wear dark glasses during the interview and was 'not at her best,'" the source told NPR.

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What is Amy Coney Barrett's background?

Raised in a suburb of New Orleans, Barrett was raised by her father, a lawyer for Shell, and her mother, a stay-at-home mom. Barrett would go on to attend St. Mary's Dominican High School for girls and graduate with honors from Rhodes College, a religious school in Tennessee. She graduated summa cum laude from Notre Dame Law School.

Barrett clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia and earned a reputation for being a "conenator" because of her penchant "for destroying flimsy legal arguments," according to the Chicago TribuneBarrett briefly practiced law and taught at Notre Dame Law School for 15 years.

What is Barrett's judicial record?

In her three years as a federal judge, Barrett "has written about 100 opinions" with "several telling dissents in which Barrett displayed her clear and consistent conservative bent," The Associated Press reports.

Like Scalia, many see Barrett as an "originalist" or "textualist." That philosophy looks "strictly at the text of the Constitution or statute and tries to apply original intention from the framers."

Diane Feinstein, a senator from California, noted that Barrett wrote often about faith and the law. "The dogma lives loudly within you, and that's of concern," Feinstein told her during Barrett’s Court of Appeals confirmation hearing in 2017.

Barrett responded, saying, "If you're asking whether I take my Catholic faith seriously, I do, though I would stress that my personal church affiliation or my religious belief would not bear on the discharge of my duties as a judge."

What is there to know about Amy Coney Barrett's family?

Barrett is married to fellow lawyer Jesse Barrett and the couple has seven children. One has been diagnosed with Down syndrome and two were adopted from Haiti, NPR notes.

What could happen to Roe vs. Wade?

Barrett has criticized Roe v. Wade in the past. In 2016, Barrett said that the court would most likely alter the decision and not ban abortion outright. She said that it would leave the basic right to abortion in place, but allow each state a "wide 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 said. "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."

What about women's fertility?

Fertility doctors are speaking out to oppose the confirmation of Barrett due to her controversial stance on in vitro fertilization (IVF).

A group of doctors published their dissent in the leading fertility journal, Fertility and Sterilitythe first time in the journal's 70-year history that it has published a statement regarding a Supreme Court nominee, according to Business Insider. Co-author Eve Feinberg, M.D, said she worries that Barrett would oppose certain forms of contraception and complicate access to in vitro fertilization based on her personal beliefs. In 2006, Barrett publicly supported an organization that promotes the idea that life begins at the moment of fertilization and that discarding unused embryos created during the IVF process should be criminalized.

During the confirmation hearings this week, when Barrett was directly asked whether criminalizing IVF would be constitutional, she replied that she couldn't “answer questions in the abstract.”

What is her opinion on the Affordable Care Act?

Democrats have argued that Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court would all but seal the demise of Obamacare.

In the past, Barrett has criticized Chief Justice John Roberts for upholding the Affordable Care Act. "Chief Justice Roberts pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute," Barrett wrote in 2017. "He construed the penalty imposed on those without health insurance as a tax, which permitted him to sustain the statute as a valid exercise of the taxing power; had he treated the payment as the statute did — as a penalty — he would have had to invalidate the statute as lying beyond Congress's commerce power."

However, when questioned during the hearings, Barrett said that she was not “on a mission” to go after Obamacare, adding, “I assure you I am not hostile to the A.C.A.”  Barrett also agreed that judges should seek to preserve the rest of a law even when one portion is repealed (a concept known as "severability) and added that judges should never seek to “to undermine the policy that Congress enacted.”

What about gun control?

On day two of the confirmation hearings, Barrett faced scrutiny over one of her past opinions on whether felons should be banned from owning firearms. "Legislatures have the power to prohibit dangerous people from possessing guns. But that power extends only to people who are dangerous," Barrett wrote in a 37-page dissent of a Wisconsin law that banned anyone with a felony to buy a gun, whether or not that person was involved in a violent crime.

"In 1791 — and for well more than a century afterward — legislatures disqualified categories of people from the right to bear arms only when they judged that doing so was necessary to protect the public safety," she continued.

Gun control advocates are worried that with Barrett on the court, she could be the vote needed to expand the rights of gun ownership should a significant 2nd Amendment case come before the Supreme Court.

Are there any other controversies?

Barrett is currently a member of People of Praise, a conservative Christian faith group. Newsweek reports that it "teaches that husbands should assume authority as the head of the household." Barrett's father helped organize the group's Southern chapters and both her parents are also members.

The New York Times explains that People of Praise "grew out of the Catholic charismatic renewal movement that began in the late 1960s and adopted Pentecostal practices such as speaking in tongues, belief in prophecy and divine healing."