WASHINGTON – Judge Amy Coney Barrett spent most of the second day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearing batting away Democrats’ predictions that she would provide the final vote needed to invalidate the Affordable Care Act and substantially rein in abortion rights, but she struggled to reconcile assurances that she had an open mind with her past writings that demonstrated strong opinions.
“I am standing before the committee today saying that I have the integrity to act consistently with my oath and apply the law,” she told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Throughout the day, Barrett – as most other Supreme Court nominees have done – consistently refused to comment about her views on issues that were likely to come before the court. She insisted she had “no agenda” other than to respect the rule of law.
But unlike most other recent high court nominees, Barrett has an unusually long record of public writings and letters on hot-button issues, such as abortion. And Democrats pressed her to explain them.
As an appellate court judge in 2018, Barrett she joined a dissent in support of an Indiana law that would have banned abortions based on a disability or deformity.
While a Notre Dame law professor in 2013, Barrett signed a public letter criticizing the landmark abortion ruling Roe vs. Wade and calling for “the unborn to be protected in law.” In 2006, she signed on to an ad that called for an “end to the barbaric legacy of Roe vs. Wade.”
Barrett said Tuesday she signed onto the ad on the “way out of church,” as a private citizen, and that it was “consistent” with the church’s views and a “pro-life” viewpoint. While she said she has “personal feelings about abortion,” she told Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the committee chairman, she would set aside her Catholic beliefs on the bench.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., repeatedly pressed Barrett to give her opinion of the 1973 Roe case, and the 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey. The two cases are the bedrock of Americans’ right to access abortion.
“It would actually be wrong – a violation of the canons – for me to do that as a sitting judge,” Barrett said. “So if I express a view on a precedent one way or another, whether I say I love it or I hate it, it signals to litigants that I might tilt one way or another on a pending case.”
In response to questions from Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Barrett acknowledged that she doesn’t view Roe as a “super-precedent,” a scholarly term used to describe a Supreme Court decision that is so widely accepted that it is at no risk of being overturned.
Barrett said that while she viewed the anti-discrimination ruling Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka as a super-precedent, she wouldn’t put Roe in that category because the public is divided on the issue and calls to overturn the abortion decision continue.
“I’m answering a lot of questions about Roe, which I think indicates that Roe does not fall into that category,” Barrett said.
With conservatives on the cusp of securing a rare 6-3 majority on the nation’s highest court, Democrats also repeatedly warned that she would vote to strike down the 2010 health care law if seated in time to hear arguments in a case scheduled to come before the court a week after the election.