By Ryan Abbasi
While the appointment and confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett have certainly polarized the election of 2020, many Americans do not know the stances or qualifications of the woman who may replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the most iconic Supreme Court Justices in American history. Despite allegations of the nominee potentially being the deciding justice in “banning abortion” or “making gay marriage illegal” her reluctance to comment on political events or stances in her confirmation hearing leads us all to ponder one question: what does Amy Coney Barrett believe?
First, it is important to note that one of Barrett’s first jobs clerking for late conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Similar to Scalia, who believed that the US Constitution should be interpreted as it was in the time when it was written and made law, Barrett identifies with originalism, the belief that is characterized by, according to Barrett, “First, the meaning of the constitutional text is fixed at the time of its ratification. Second, the historical meaning of the text ‘has legal significance and is authoritative in most circumstances.”
While originalism may directly impact Barrett’s decisions as a Justice, Barrett has pledged to never allow her strong faith to impact her rulings on the court. In 2017, during the U.S. Senate hearing to confirm Barrett for her current position as Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, following another nomination by Donald Trump, Barrett was questioned about her strong Christian beliefs impacting her legal decisions by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, and responded, “I would never impose my own personal convictions upon the law.”
Although the nominee has denied her personal beliefs influencing her decisions, Barrett has been an outspoken opponent of abortion in the past. For instance, in 2006, Barrett signed an advertisement by an anti-abortion group that read, “We, the following citizens of Michiana, oppose abortion on demand and defend the right to life from fertilization to natural death.” Furthermore, in 2013, Barrett compiled a list of seven cases that she believes are superprecedents or cases and rulings that the court would never consider overturning. Absent from the list was Roe v. Wade, which Barrett claimed was missing because it did not have sufficient support from jurists, politicians, and the public to qualify as irreversible. However, during the same 2017 hearing with Senator Feinstein, Barrett claimed, “to a court of appeals, all Supreme Court precedent is superprecedent,” in reference to her potential rulings regarding abortion as a Court of Appeals Judge. Regarding same-sex marriage, Barrett vowed to “faithfully follow” the decisions of landmark marriage equality cases, including Obergefell v. Hodges.
Whether Barrett will serve on the Supreme Court or not is still up for question, but with a Republican majority Senate, and the possible inauguration of a new president in January, Amy Coney Barrett may very well obtain the seat that once belonged to “the notorious RBG.”