South Bay groups weigh in on Supreme Court nomination — and what it could mean for women
South Bay activists expressed concern over Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court. Photo by Katie King.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Judge Amy Coney Barrett appears poised to be confirmed to the Supreme Court next week — and her potential confirmation could have significant impacts on the future of women’s rights for generations to come.

“This is the first time in American history that we have nominated a woman who is unashamedly pro-life and embraces her faith without apology, and she is going to the court,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said during Barrett’s confirmation hearing this week.

Barrett, 48, is a former law professor at the University of Notre Dame and current judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. She was nominated by President Donald Trump last month after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died of pancreatic cancer. Her nomination was applauded by anti-abortion activists but many women’s rights advocates believe she is an unacceptable replacement for Ginsburg, a liberal member of the court who fought for gender equality and reproductive freedom.

“Judge Barrett’s record and writings indicate she would be likely to reverse or oppose polices that support women’s economic security, pay equity, reproductive healthcare and Title IX protections,” said Peg Carlson-Bowen, the president of the San Jose chapter of the American Association of University Women.

The AAUW is a nonprofit that works for women’s equality through advocacy and education. Carlson-Bowen shared a statement from the national branch, which she said had the local chapter’s full support.

“While we agree that it’s essential to choose a woman for this powerful and distinguished role, women are not interchangeable,” it states. “We need a justice who is committed to safeguarding our rights…(Barrett) is on the wrong side of many of the issues that are central to AAUW’s mission of advancing gender equity.”

Shannon Hovis, the director of NARAL Pro-Choice California, said the organization was gravely concerned by Barrett’s nomination and fear it will result in the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Abortion rights would still remain protected by state law in California, but less than half of U.S. states offer such protections.

Hovis said this would lead to dire consequences for many women.

“When somebody knows that they need an abortion, they will find some way to end that pregnancy,” she said. “…The only thing you are doing (by outlawing abortion) is compromising the safety and well-being of women.”

The majority of Americans do not want the court to overturn Roe v. Wade, Hovis added.

A 2019 poll from the Pew Research Center found 61 percent of adult Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, whereas 38 percent said it should be illegal in all or most cases.

The California Pro-Life Council, an affiliate of the National Right to Life Committee, declined an interview with San José Spotlight. The West Valley Republican Women Federated, an affiliate of the National Federation of Republican Women, did not respond to a request for comment.

During her four-day confirmation hearing, which concluded Oct. 15, Barrett mostly evaded specific questions and said it would be inappropriate to share her personal views.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) pressed Barrett for a straightforward answer on whether she believed Roe v. Wade was erroneously decided.

“As a college student in the 1950s, I saw what happened to young women who became pregnant at a time when abortion was not legal in this country,” Feinstein said. “I went to Stanford. I saw the trips to Mexico, I saw young woman try to hurt themselves and it was really deeply, deeply concerning.”

Barrett told Feinstein she could not answer the question because it would signal to litigants that she might tilt one way or another in a potential pending case.

California Senator and Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris argued it was already evident that Barrett did not support abortion rights.

“I would suggest that we not pretend that we don’t know how this nominee views a woman’s right to choose and make her own health care decisions,” said Harris, who attended the hearing virtually.

Barrett, who was a member of the Faculty for Life organization at Notre Dame, endorsed an ad in 2006 that condemned the “barbaric legacy” of Roe v. Wade and advocated for the ruling to be overturned. As a judge, Barrett has supported the rehearing of a case that overturned an Indiana law requiring minors to notify their parents before undergoing an abortion.

Harris also rebuked Senate Republicans for pushing through with the confirmation hearing while the presidential election was already underway. More than 12 million votes have been cast, she said, and the winner of the election should select the next justice.

Throughout the hearing, multiple Republican legislators slammed their liberal counterparts for showing a consistent bias towards conservative women.

“I’m struck by the irony of how demeaning to women their accusations really are, that you, a working mother of seven, with a strong record of professional and academic accomplishments, couldn’t possibly respect the goals and desires of today’s women,” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) told Barrett.

Barrett, who received a “well-qualified” rating from the American Bar Association this week, repeatedly stated she had no agenda and would approach each case with integrity and an open mind.

“When I write an opinion resolving a case, I read every word from the perspective of the losing party. I ask myself how would I view the decision if one of my children was the party I was ruling against,” she said in her opening statement. “…That is the standard I set for myself in every case, and it is the standard I will follow as long as I am a judge on any court.”

Contact Katie King at [email protected] or follow @KatieKingCST on Twitter.

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