U.S. Supreme Court nominee Barrett avoids specific questions on abortion and other contentious issues

On the second day of her confirmation hearing, Judge Amy Coney Barrett avoids answering detailed questions on landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases. Source: Washington Post screengrab

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett dodged detailed questions on landmark abortion cases that ensure women can have access to abortions.

In what was an expected line of questioning on the second day of her confirmation hearing before the U.S. Committee on the Judiciary, Barrett said she has not made any commitment on how she would rule in any case if she is confirmed. But she did describe how she approaches cases as a judge.

“I interpret the Constitution as a law… and I understand it to have the meaning that it had at the time people ratified it,” said Barrett. “That meaning doesn’t change over time and it’s not up to me to update it or infuse my own policy views into it.”

Barrett repeated that she has “no agenda” to push as a judge and that she would follow the language of the law.

Barrett is a Catholic, which has come up in discussions by lawmakers on her faith. Many Catholics are against key abortion rights.

California Senator Dianne Feinstein repeatedly grilled Barrett on landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases such as Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, trying to gather any hint that she would vote in favor or against a challenge to these cases.

But Barrett wouldn’t budge, and that seemed to frustrate Feinstein.

“My vote depends a lot on these responses, because these are life and death situations for people,” Feinstein said.

Barrett avoided taking a stance on several other contentious topics, such as LGBTQ rights, including same-sex marriage.

Another issue that came up repeatedly during both days of the hearing was about whether the U.S. Supreme Court could challenge the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare. Some senators and other people fear that Obamacare could be at risk if Barrett is confirmed.

Her confirmation, if approved, would create a conservative supermajority in the U.S. Supreme Court.

“My personal views don’t have anything to do with how I would decide cases,” Barrett said, “and I don’t want anyone to be unclear about that.”

During the hearing Tuesday, the Republican National Committee stated that “Democrats are continuing to play politics with our nation’s highest court,” according to an email from Emma Vaughn, the RNC’s Florida press secretary.

“Everyone who knows Judge Barrett has nothing but praise for her intellect, character, and legal acumen. Democrats are more interested in partisan attacks and fear mongering than their constitutional duty to confirm Judge Barrett.”

Democrat Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, former candidate for president in 2020, continued to question the validity of Barrett’s nomination less than a month out from the November 3 election, calling it a “sham.”

“Do you think it is faithful to our democratic principles to fill a U.S. Supreme Court vacancy this close to the election, when people are still voting?” Klobuchar asked.

“I think that is a question for the political branches,” Barrett responded.

Critics of Barrett’s nomination see the hearing process as a rushed political move. The concern comes from election results — fearing that distrust in the voting process will force an outcome that will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

President Donald Trump said he thinks the election results might be determined by the Supreme Court, and he would prefer nine justices to make that decision.

Several senators asked Barrett to commit to recusing herself from an election dispute, should one arise, to avoid the appearance of bias.

“What I will commit to every member of this committee, to the rest of the Senate, and to the American people, is that I will consider all factors that are relevant to that question — relevant to that question that requires recusal when there is an appearance of bias.”

While she said she could not provide a definitive answer now, Barrett added that, “I promise you that if I were confirmed and if an election dispute arises…I would very seriously undertake that process and I would consider every relevant factor.”

Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University, majoring in English with a focus in editing, writing, and media. While at FSU, she served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine, Nomadic Noles. Last fall, she fulfilled another editorial internship with Rowland Publishing, where she wrote for the Tallahassee Magazine, Emerald Coast Magazine, and 850 Business Magazine. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat. She spends her downtime traveling to all corners of Florida and beyond to practice lindy hop.