I get it, judicial nominations aren’t exactly the Emmys or BET Awards. There are certainly no exciting performances or special guests, and most of the speeches are given by old white men. While the more politically-involved citizens may pay attention to the Senate hearings going on right now, many Americans are skipping the televised arguments to watch something more entertaining — like football. And who could blame them? But here’s the thing: the results of this Supreme Court nomination will not only affect you (and they will affect you), but also your children and your children’s children. And it’s not just women’s reproductive rights that are at stake.
If Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed by the Senate (which will undoubtedly happen unless a significant number of Americans call their senators to stop it), that will mean the Supreme Court of the United States will have a 6–3 conservative majority. Now you may remember learning back in school that the purpose of the Supreme Court is to uphold the Constitution, but SCOTUS justices do more than determine whether legislation is unconstitutional; they also interpret the law. This means that while one Supreme Court can rule that something is permitted under the Constitution, another future Supreme Court can rule that the same policy is unconstitutional. For example, in 1896, the Supreme Court ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson that racial segregation laws did not violate the Constitution, but that decision was overturned in the 1954 Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education. Unfortunately, not all overturned cases will yield positive results like the Brown v. Board of Education decision did. Over the next few months, some really important cases affecting our rights will be decided by the Supreme Court, and Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation could be the determining factor in how these decisions play out.
Affordable Care Act
Taking center stage right now is the debate over the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) which provided more than 20 million Americans with health insurance. The individual mandate in the act, which requires individuals to have health insurance, was upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court in 2012, but it has since been removed by President Trump. Now Republican-led states are arguing in California v. Texas that removing the individual mandate renders the entire Affordable Care Act unconstitutional and that it must be dismantled.
The high Court will hear this case on November 10th of this year, and if Amy Barrett is confirmed, there are indications that she will vote in favor of eliminating some or all of Obamacare. Doing so could get rid of protections for people with pre-existing conditions, subsidies that make health insurance more affordable, expanded eligibility for Medicaid, the closing of gaps in Medicare coverage, coverage for young adults up to 26 under their parents’ insurance policies, nondiscrimination in health services, and coverage of preventative care. 29.8 million people would lose their health insurance and all young people relying on their parents’ insurance policies would lose coverage as well. Barrett’s confirmation threatens the health of millions of Americans.
Also in November, the Supreme Court will be hearing Fulton v. City of Philadelphia which will determine whether businesses that receive funding to provide government services (like foodbanks, homeless shelters, or foster care providers) can deny services to people based on religious beliefs. This November 4th case ultimately decides whether it’s legal for these places to deny people who identify as LGBTQ, Muslim, Mormon, or something else that their ‘faith does not support.’ This decision could even prohibit LGBTQ+ couples from adopting children depending on where they live. While we don’t know how Barrett — if confirmed — would decide on this particular case, we do know that she supported the dissent in the case that legalized marriage between same sex couples and that she has lectured for and been financially supported by multiple anti-LGBTQ groups.
We also know that she sided with the employer in a workplace discrimination lawsuit involving racist remarks and actions, and that she supported President Trump’s policy that would deny citizenship to immigrants who may need public assistance now or in the future. Barrett, who has served as a judge for less than 4 years, has also been antagonistic towards voting rights which have come under significant attack since the 2013 gutting of the Voting Rights Act. Shortly, the Court will be hearing new cases that could dissolve what’s left of the historic act, and Barrett won’t even acknowledge that voter discrimination still exists. These upcoming cases are just the start of the many discrimination lawsuits that will be heard by the Supreme Court, and Barrett’s confirmation threatens the outcomes of all of them.
The 2020 Election
One of the reasons that President Trump is pushing Republican Senators to confirm Barrett before doing anything else (like passing a COVID relief bill) is because he’s hoping she’ll hand him the 2020 election. But, wait, how could that be possible? Back in 2000, the Supreme Court helped decide the presidential election after a post-election battle over who would receive Florida’s electoral votes, and in effect, the presidency. While the big question then was about Florida’s ballot-counting mishaps, the 2020 election has much messier court case possibilities.
President Trump has repeatedly stated that if he doesn’t win, the election must be rigged, signifying that he plans to declare himself the winner regardless of what happens. To aide in that effort, he’s casted doubt on the mail-in ballot system that he himself has used, attempting to call into question the validity of any mail-in votes. He’s also been replacing government officials in charge of monitoring election security with people with whom he has closer ties. Republican-controlled legislatures across the country have increased voter-suppression efforts by limiting polling places and purging voter rolls while the Trump campaign has filed numerous lawsuits targeting voting rights in swing states like Pennsylvania. This will also be the first presidential election in 40 years not to require approval of “ballot security measures” or voter intimidation techniques.
There’s little doubt that Trump will use any method he can to secure a second term, and it’s possible that the resulting dispute could end up at the Supreme Court. With Barrett confirmed, the Court will not only be a 6–3 conservative majority, but also three of the conservative justices will have been hand-picked by Trump, precisely with this scenario in mind. Barrett has refused to recuse herself from a possible Trump election case, stating that she can remain unbiased in her ruling. But let’s be honest, her confirmation could change the outcome of the 2020 election and the future of our democracy.
As global warming becomes more of a concern and climate disasters become more frequent, there will be tension between environmentalists and corporations that will inevitably end in court. Plus, the most important climate ruling to date will very likely be brought before the Supreme Court again soon. In 2007, Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency established that greenhouse gases are pollutants and that states can challenge the federal government’s failure to act on climate change. Barrett’s confirmation will probably prevent future climate action but could also undercut current environmental legislation and historic precedents like Massachusetts v. EPA.
We don’t fully know Barrett’s stance on the environment, but she is a staunch conservative, and if she follows her conservative colleagues on the court, environmental policies and protections will likely be struck down. Barrett says she has no ‘firm views’ on climate change. She says she does not ‘know enough’ to state that global warming is caused by humans (even though 97% of scientists agree that it’s anthropogenic) and won’t even commit to stating that it’s real. It’s obvious that this nominee does not understand the dire state that our Earth is in, but she also has ties to the oil industry which could inform her response to environmental lawsuits. The planet is already in jeopardy, we don’t need to deplete our environmental policy options by confirming Barrett to the Supreme Court.
I think we’ve all heard by now that Amy Coney Barrett is hostile towards women’s reproductive rights, but a lot of people don’t quite understand the extent of her hostility. Barrett belonged to a group at Notre Dame that was not just against allowing women access to safe abortions, but also against birth control and in vitro fertilization. Remember when Trump was healed from the coronavirus with that new treatment? Well, in their research to develop that treatment, Regeneron scientists used stem cells which are obtained through abortions and, more often, in vitro fertilization. If Barrett were to act on her belief that ‘life begins at conception,’ that treatment couldn’t possibly exist.
Judges are not supposed to let their personal views interfere with their legal interpretations, however, we know that’s not always how it goes down in the courtroom. There is reason to believe the Supreme Court would overturn, or at least severely gut, the historic Roe v. Wade court case if Barrett gets confirmed. Following the decision, many states would immediately enact bans on abortion and others would likely follow suit. Millions across the country would lose their bodily autonomy and right to choose.
There is so much that I didn’t cover here, but Barrett’s confirmation threatens all of us. What’s really scary is that this isn’t someone we can just ‘vote out’ next time around. Supreme Court positions are lifelong, and Barrett is only 48 years old. That means her beliefs will be impacting the policies of this country for decades to come. So yeah, the hearings aren’t super entertaining, but I promise you that the results are incredibly important. If Barrett becomes a Supreme Court Justice, you can be sure that your personal rights and the rights of those you love will be in jeopardy, along with the health of our planet and our democracy.
Unfortunately, the only way to prevent the Senate from confirming her is if there is very strong backlash from the public. That means we need people like you to call your senators and tell them not to confirm any justice until after the election. I know phone calls can be scary, but you’ll most likely just get an answering machine anyway, and you only need to say that one sentence. Please voice your opposition to the Barrett confirmation before it’s too late.
Senate switchboard: (202) 224-3121