Amy Coney Barrett emerged Saturday as President Trump’s pick to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a move that has sparked praise from conservative women and an outcry from liberals. If confirmed, her appointment would ensure a conservative majority in the Supreme Court for years to come.
In his announcement, Trump lauded the 48-year-old judge’s track record as a full-time law professor, judge and mother. He also noted that, if confirmed, Barrett would be the first justice with school-age children, including adopted children and a child with special needs.
If the death of Ginsburg put a spotlight on Roe v. Wade, Barrett’s nomination only intensifies it: Previous writings by the judge have led many to believe she would vote to limit abortion rights, an issue central to many conservative Republicans and evangelical voters.
The pushback from progressive women’s groups was swift. The National Organization for Women said Barrett would help repeal Roe and shred the Affordable Care Act. NARAL called Barrett a threat to reproductive justice and said it would fight against her nomination. The Human Rights Campaign said Barrett would be hostile toward LGBTQ+ rights.
But conservative groups, including antiabortion organizations, have welcomed the news, offering praise of Barrett and gathering to show their support. Abby Johnson, an antiabortion activist who recently spoke at the Republican National Convention, wrote on Twitter that feminists should celebrate Barrett.
Ahead of Trump’s formal announcement on Saturday, about 50 members of Students for Life of America, an antiabortion group that focuses on college campuses, gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court building to celebrate Barrett’s nomination, which was first reported Friday. In a video of the gathering, one woman is holding a sign that says “trust pro-life women.”
As a speaker announced official word of Barrett’s nomination, the small crowd erupted in cheers.
Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins, 35, was at the White House Rose Garden when Barrett was introduced. She said it was a historic moment.
“Here is this woman at the top of her field, who was the top of her education, the top of her class at Notre Dame,” She said. “She does all this, while being a wife and a mother, and remaining devout to our faith.”
She went on to say that Barrett is the antithesis of the “false narrative that we so often hear from the left, and the mainstream media, that women have to choose one or the other: They have to choose their career, their education or having a family.”
If confirmed, Hawkins said, Barrett will be an antiabortion justice who will reverse Roe v. Wade. Then, “abortion will go back to the states and that’s where we’ll fight,” Hawkins said.
Julie Gunnigle, 38, said it’s true Barrett is well-respected in her field — Gunnigle was a student at Notre Dame Law School in 2003 when Barrett was a professor.
“She loomed large,” Gunnigle said. She wrote on Twitter that Barrett had a reputation for collegiality and excellence in the classroom.
“I meant what I said,” she said. “She was an excellent professor.”
But that’s where it ends for Gunnigle.
“I believe [Barrett] is unfit to fill the seat of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. … She’s an extremist pick,” she said.
Gunnigle, who is running for the county attorney seat in Arizona’s Maricopa County, said Barrett’s stances have troubled her and are counter to what she believes in, particularly when it comes to abortion and LGBTQ+ rights. Legal experts and activists say a conservative-leaning Supreme Court could threaten recent advancements in LGBTQ+ rights in favor of religious rights.
Rebecca Cokley, director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress, said the potential impact on access to abortion is personal for her. Cokley, who has a form of dwarfism, said parents with some forms of dwarfism have a 25 percent chance of passing both their dwarfism genes to a pregnancy — known as double-dominant syndrome. This is a fatal condition and often results in a miscarriage.
“For the community of little people, abortion is health care,” she said.
As an advocate for the disability community, Cokley is also focused on how filling the empty court seat with a conservative justice will decide cases on health care, including on the Affordable Care Act, which includes protections for people with disabilities. Democrats have pointed out that Barrett has been critical of the ACA in the past. The Supreme Court will hear the next arguments in the Trump administration’s attempts to repeal the ACA in November.
Like Students for Life, other young people are closely watching Barrett’s nomination, including young women who will be voting in their first presidential election in November. One of them is Sabrina Liu, 19, a political science and public policy student at Suffolk University. There is no doubt, Liu said, that Barrett is an accomplished and impressive woman, but Liu said that doesn’t mean she is fighting for women.
“Trump is trying to compromise,” she said. “She’s a woman, trying to fill RBG’s seat, but she, in no way, is championing the same rights that RBG opened the door for.”
Liu has concerns about where Barrett might stand on abortion as well as LGBTQ+ rights. Rachel Landis, 19, a student at Brandeis University, agreed. Having never lived in a pre-Roe world, Landis said she is fearful of what Barrett’s appointment might mean. She imagines a conservative court means justices may more regularly hear cases challenging Roe v. Wade.
Both Landis and Liu said Barrett’s nomination has only intensified their desire to see more of their peers vote in the November election.
“RBG was a huge loss,” she said. “It’s time to roll up your sleeves and start working.”