What Amy Coney Barrett's nomination could mean for access to healthcare, abortion

If the Senate confirms nominee Amy Coney Barrett, future decisions will be decidedly more conservative.

President Donald Trump’s nominee Amy Coney Barrett is expected to be the next judge appointed to the Supreme Court. If the Republican-controlled Senate can complete the approval process before the election, Barrett will replace the late justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The Supreme Court is expected to make decisions on the Affordable Care Act, abortion and LGBTQ freedom from religious discrimination in the upcoming months. Barrett’s nomination has the potential to decide the rights of millions.

Barrett is reportedly anti-abortion; she opposes “abortion on demand,” an abortion performed at a person’s request, and defends the right to life from fertilization to the end of natural life. She has cosigned several advertisements and letters in print in the past several years confirming this stance on abortion. If confirmed, she will be a deciding vote on any future abortion cases.

For Missouri residents, Roe v. Wade is the only thing protecting their right to abortion. If it were to be overturned, Missouri laws would restrict access to abortion. People would only be allowed to get an abortion in Missouri in cases of life endangerment or severely compromised health.

Missouri has one clinic performing abortion procedures. The Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis was almost shut down in May 2019 when the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services refused to renew the clinic’s license. A year-long legal battle ensued which ended with the clinic staying open.

The Supreme Court will hear the case California v. Texas on Nov. 10 to decide on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. It is expected to rely on the 2012 precedent which decided that Obamacare was an “appropriate use of Congress’ power to tax.”

Chief Justice John Roberts, the dependable swing vote of the court, voted to save Obamacare in the 2012 case. Barrett criticized his decision, saying, “Roberts pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute.”

If Obamacare is declared unconstitutional by the court’s decision in June 2021, millions of people could lose access to healthcare.

When Obamacare was enacted in 2010, it granted millions of people affordable healthcare. It gives people with pre-existing conditions equal access to affordable services, along with allowing children to stay on their parents’ healthcare plan until the age of 26. If it were to be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court and not replaced by another plan, millions would lose access to affordable healthcare solutions.

The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group, said Barrett is an “absolute threat” to LGBTQ rights.

She signed a letter to Synod Fathers in Christ in October 2015 that read, “marriage and family [are] founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman.”

When Obergefell v. Hodges decided in 2015 that same-sex marriage was protected in all 50 states under the constitution, Barrett wrote in support of the dissenting justices. She said it was not within the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction to decide.

“People were presenting it as a vote for or against same-sex marriage, but that’s not what the opinion was about,” Barrett said. “What the opinion was about was who gets to decide whether we have same-sex marriage or not.”

The case decided, in her words, that states weren’t free to say that marriage had to be between a man and a woman. Barrett supported Roberts’ statement in which he wrote, “If I were a legislator, I would certainly consider that view as a matter of social policy. But as a judge, I find the majority’s position indefensible as a matter of constitutional law.”

The Supreme Court will hear a case on Nov. 4 that decides whether religious liberties give space for discrimination against LGBTQ people and people of Jewish, Muslim and Mormon faiths. There is not a clear precedent because of the opposing rulings in Obergefell v. Hodges and Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Based on her previous statements on similar cases, it is likely Barrett will vote in favor of religious freedoms since those are expressly stated in the constitution.

Barrett is considered a safe conservative voice on the court.

“Ginsburg maintained one of the most consistent liberal voting records in the history of the court. Barrett has the same consistency and commitment,” George Washington University Professor Jonathan Turley told BBC. “She is not a work-in-progress like some nominees. She is the ultimate 'deliverable' for conservative votes.”

All future cases heard by the Supreme Court regarding these issues will be influenced by Barrett’s position if she is confirmed. If these cases are overturned by the Supreme Court, millions of people could be left without access to healthcare, abortion services and basic securities.

The current 5-3 conservative majority will become a 6-3 majority if she is confirmed. This majority could last for decades, allowing the Supreme Court to make consistent, conservative decisions.

Edited by Joy Mazur | jmazur@themaneater.com

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