“Partisan, Malicious Theft of the People’s Seat”: Feminists React to Amy Coney Barrett’s Confirmation

On Monday evening, just eight days before Election Day, the Senate voted to confirm Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee to fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.

“Mitch McConnell put partisan, political hackery ahead of serving the American people – choosing to focus the Senate’s time on this sham of a process instead of providing a COVID relief package that the American people need and deserve. It’s a hard pill to swallow  — and once again we are faced with the reality that we cannot always control who sits on the Supreme Court but, we can change the document they interpret. With Barrett’s confirmation, ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, and constitutionally prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex, is more important than ever. We must remain focused on the fight ahead.”

—Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12)

The vote represents one of the quickest confirmations in the history of the Supreme Court. Last night saw the administering of the constitutional oath, though Barrett still needs to take the judicial oath in order to take her place on the court.

Reacting to Republican “Hypocrisy”

Barrett’s speedy confirmation has drawn accusations of Republican “hypocrisy,” with many pointing to the Republicans’ refusal to confirm Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland in 2016 in favor of waiting for the next president (notably, Sen. Lindsey Graham R-S.C., when arguing that the next president should make the nomination, said, “I want you to use my words against me”).

Some pointed out that the overwhelming Republican control of federal government does not reflect the outcome of the past several elections—and that the general public’s political desires have largely gone ignored in 2020 in favor of partisan power grabs. (For context: It’s been 215 days since the Senate approved the last COVID-19 stimulus bill—but just 38 days since Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death set Barrett’s nomination in motion).

“This charade exposes the Senate Republicans’ misplaced priorities. They failed to provide relief to families and communities suffering from COVID-19. They refused to answer calls for racial justice across the nation. They ignored the more than 63 million people who have already voted to elect the president and senators who should make this decision. Instead, they have broken rules and fast-tracked this nomination as an attempt to cement their agenda on the Court for decades to come.”

—Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

“Instead of aiding the country through a global pandemic, Senate Republicans have chosen to distort the high court for decades to come. Shame on them. American voters across the country will remember this as they continue to head to the polls in record numbers.”

—María Teresa Kumar, Colombian American political rights activist and president and CEO of Voto Latino

“The anti-democratic priorities of Senate leadership have never been more clear. While millions suffer and thousands die a day, they have explicitly and proudly prioritized the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett over the well-being of the American people.”

—Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center

“In the midst of a global health crisis, with more than 225,000 dead in this country, Mitch McConnell prioritized this sham process over passing desperately needed COVID relief—and he openly admitted it. Senate majority leadership has compromised the safety and well-being of Americans by ignoring this pandemic, and they’ve done it to confirm a Supreme Court justice who will be an active threat to our health and rights.

“This partisan, malicious theft of the people’s seat will be felt for generations to come.”

—Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood Action president

“This power grab by Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell is a shameful attack on our democracy. Amy Barrett’s extreme position on our fundamental rights is disqualifying. We know that they cannot be shamed, so we will see every single Republican who has played a role in this charade at the ballot box.”

—Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-choice America

“This nomination process was an affront to our democracy. It was fast-tracked while early voting was underway, with nearly one million people already having cast their vote. Judge Barrett’s record and testimony demonstrate that she puts the wealthy and powerful first. Her appointment will only further entrench the anti-worker, pro-corporation slant of this Supreme Court, jeopardizing workers’ rights and making it far more difficult to enforce fundamental workplace protections. 

This confirmation means that together we must confront a very real threat to the progress and goals of our movements, given that Judge Barrett does not acknowledge that systemic racism and discriminatory barriers against voters of color exist; that mail-in voting is essential during a pandemic; that cases affirming the rights to contraception, choice, and marriage equality were correctly decided; that family separation is wrong; that climate change is real; and that presidents should commit to a peaceful transition of power.”

Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Project

Barrett is the least qualified Supreme Court nominee in 30 years, as Mother Jones reported—she has only three years of experience on the bench, and very little experience practicing law as a lawyer. (Notably, when asked to recall cases she’d worked on during her confirmation hearings in 2017, she could only recall three. Nominees are asked to recall at least 10.)


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Civil and Reproductive Rights Advocates Express Concern

Barrett’s confirmation brought concern from advocates for racial justice, reproductive rights, and LGBTQ rights, many of whom cited her stance on Roe v. Wade (which she has suggested was an “erroneous decision”) and expressed concern over the status of the Affordable Care Act, which the court is set to hear a challenge to just one week after election day.

Justice Barrett’s academic writings, court decisions, and public advocacy reveal a legal view that the U.S. Constitution does not protect an individual’s personal liberty to make decisions about their reproductive health. This has incredibly troubling implications for the Supreme Court’s settled jurisprudence that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the right to access contraception and abortion care. Counter to her clear and documented record of extreme opposition to reproductive rights, Justice Barrett testified in her Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that she would join the Court with no agenda. Only time will be the judge of that.”  

—Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights

“The Senate’s decision to confirm Amy Coney Barrett—an extreme, ideologically motivated jurist—is a direct attack on human rights and access to health care. We are gravely concerned about the impact that a Justice Barrett will have on the health, rights, and well-being of women, adolescents, LGBQTI people, and other marginalized groups, not only in the US but worldwide. 

Throughout the confirmation hearings, Amy Coney Barrett’s hostility to fundamental human rights was on full display, an ominous sign for upcoming rulings on health care, reproductive rights, and LGBTQI rights. Her record on sexual and reproductive health and rights is particularly concerning and poses a direct threat to abortion rights, in vitro fertilization, and health care access for people with diverse gender identities. Instead of advancing women’s rights and gender equality, as her predecessor Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg did, Barrett’s record suggests she will block progress on immigration, climate, and criminal justice reform, further establishing herself as a staunch opponent of reproductive justice.”

—Nina Besser Doorley, associate director of advocacy and policy of the International Women’s Health Coalition

“Barrett’s confirmation comes just days before the election, and right before a case that will determine the fate of the Affordable Care Act is scheduled to be argued before the Supreme Court. This hastily rushed confirmation once again shifts the balance of the Court and is an insult to the life and legacy of Justice Ginsburg, whose dying wish was that a new Justice not be confirmed until after the election.”

—Dr. Jamila Perritt, ob/gyn and President and CEO of Physicians for Reproductive Health

The court is also set to hear several important cases related to LGBTQ rights, including Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, this term. Barrett has ties to anti-LGBT organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which has been designated as a hate group by the SPLC.

“Amy Coney Barrett’s pending confirmation is alarming for LGBTQ people and for all Americans whose fundamental rights should never be up for debate. Barrett’s time at a school that discriminated against LGBTQ families and hurt LGBTQ youth is disturbing and should disqualify her from the Court. Her stated views against marriage equality, rulings against access to abortion, and her public criticism of the Affordable Care Act are out of step with fair-minded Americans and threaten the progress our country has made to become a stronger and more equitable home for all. Her record against LGBTQ famiies and rights has no place in American life, let alone the highest court in the land.

The rush to confirm her in this unprecedented way will undermine Judge Barrett’s credibility throughout her time on the court, and will be another point of evaluation for voters witnessing this process during an out-of-control pandemic, economic crisis and as millions are casting ballots.”

—Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO and President of GLAAD

All in a Day’s Work: Court OKs Voter Suppression in Wisconsin

Mere minutes before Barrett’s confirmation, the Supreme Court issued a 5-3 ruling stating that ballots that are postmarked by Election Day, but arrive later, will not be counted in Wisconsin.

Notably, Justice Kavanaugh’s statement cited Bush v. Gore—a contentious case that marked the first time the Supreme Court directly intervened in an election’s outcome and made an overtly partisan decision.

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Some Democrats repeated their calls for expansion of the court, a concept that has taken up steam within the liberal establishment in recent weeks.

And in light of Barrett’s views on abortion and reproductive health care, many took to Twitter to uplift funds for people who face difficulties in getting abortions.

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About

Oliver Haug is an editorial intern with Ms. Magazine and a recent graduate of Smith college. Their writing has previously appeared in Autostraddle and the New York Times' newsletter "The Edit." You can read more of their work at oliverhaug.contently.com, and follow them on twitter here.