On Monday morning, a crowd of roughly 100 people, mostly young women, lined the street outside the Dirksen Senate Office Building. They were holding pink signs that said “Women for Amy.”
They were there to support Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, whose confirmation hearings to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg began Monday. The judge has been hailed by conservative women for her success in the legal profession all while acting as a mother to seven children. Liberal women have feared a Barrett seat on the Supreme Court will surely mean an end to Roe v. Wade, same-sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act.
Around 8:30 a.m., the supporters of Barrett were met by another group: demonstrators against Barrett. Holding signs with slogans including “Save the ACA,” and “Save Roe,” the procession of another approximately 75 people met the pro-Barrett group in front of the Senate building’s doors.
The two groups began shouting competing chants at one another, prompting Capitol Police to ask them to move across the street.
But the two groups had something in common: They were overwhelmingly led by and made up of women, including many young women.
“Young women care about our future,” said Doreen Denny, a Barrett supporter and member of the conservative group Concerned Women for America. She wore a mask that read “Confirm Amy” on the side. “They care about having Supreme Court justices who will rule according to the Constitution and the law.”
Denny called Barrett a role model for young women and said she will uphold the rights of Americans.
Leading up to her hearings, Barrett has faced questions about how her faith may impact her decision-making on the high court. For the groups gathered to support Barrett, her dedication to her faith is a welcome sign. Some supporters prayed for Barrett outside the Supreme Court.
Twenty-one-year-old Selene Cerankosky said she was antiabortion before becoming Christian but that her views have been “strengthened since being saved by Jesus.” She says she supports Barrett because of her “pro-life record.”
But nearby, a news conference led by a group called Faith in Public Life was getting underway. Four female faith leaders were there to speak out against Barrett and to call for the vacant Supreme Court seat to be filled only after the presidential inauguration next year.
Jennifer Butler, a reverend and the chief executive of the group’s sister organization — the Faith in Public Life Action Fund — said that the organization has a coalition of women of faith, all from different religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam. She said coming out as faith leaders against Barrett was an “important counterbalance to people who I believe are misrepresenting the Christian faith.”
“As women of faith, our traditions are liberative for women,” she said. “But there are others that have used them to oppress women.” She said the group is concerned Barrett’s nomination would mean an end to Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, and the Affordable Care Act.
“Jesus told me to care for people across the life spectrum,” she said. “I think of those who will lose health care and die because of it.”
Sheila Katz, the chief executive of the National Council of Jewish Women, said she was speaking out to honor Ginsburg, who was the first Jewish woman on the Supreme Court.
“In Jewish tradition, abortion is permitted and sometimes required. And so it’s very important that from a faith perspective we speak out and counter a narrative that sometimes says abortion and faith don’t go together. It’s simply not true,” Katz said.
Among the other anti-Barrett protesters was Melissa Rawley-Payne, who came from New Jersey and said she got an apartment in D.C. for the entirety of the confirmation hearings.
“I’m here on behalf of gay marriage, the ACA, Roe v. Wade,” Rawley-Payne ticked off. “This is a critical point in our history, for the election and for the Supreme Court.”
Rose Laoutaris, a D.C. college student, said she came out to protest to show that conservative women do exist. “We are told a lot of women are liberal … we don’t support conservative women,” Laoutaris said.
She said she was supportive of Barrett’s stance on originalism, a belief that was favored by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, which means strictly interpreting the Constitution based on the Founding Fathers’ original intent. Laoutaris also says she is antiabortion and believes Barrett would play a role in overturning Roe v. Wade.
A group of approximately 50 young members of Students for Life, who gathered in D.C. on the day President Trump introduced Barrett, were back on Monday. This time, they carried signs that said “Protect life in law.”
Student Autumn Lindsey was one of five women dressed in white wigs, black judge’s robes and pearls, which she said was to represent that Barrett will be a “justice for life.”
“We are excited to have a woman on the Supreme Court to not only represent conservative women but the pro-life generation,” Lindsey said.
Standing nearby and also in costume was a different group. Five women were dressed in bright red robes and white winged bonnets — a reference to Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale.” While Barrett did serve as a “handmaid” in the religious group People of Praise, Atwood has said she was inspired by a “different but similar” group, as reported by The Washington Post.
Sunsara Taylor, who came from Los Angeles to be there on Monday, said the handmaids represent the “religious theocratic enslavement of women.” Taylor says it’s clear the movements for and against Barrett’s nomination were largely being led by women, but that was irrelevant.
“[Christian fundamentalists] have consciously put forward a lot of women to support her, to claim this is a new face of feminism,” Taylor said. “But, the reality is … when abortion is illegal, when birth control is inaccessible, women are forced to have children against their will, that’s a form of enslavement and thousands of women die.”