When pressed Tuesday during the second day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Judge Amy Coney Barrett declined to comment on whether she believed the high court had wrongly decided two key cases guaranteeing a right to abortion, despite her past public comments and writings condemning them.
“It would actually be wrong — a violation of the canons — for me to do that as a sitting judge,” Barrett said. “So if I express a view on a precedent one way or another, whether I say I love it or I hate it, it signals to litigants that I might tilt one way or another on a pending case.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) repeatedly pressed Barrett to give her opinion of the 1973 case, Roe vs. Wade, and the 1992 case, Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, which combined are the bedrock of Americans’ right to access abortion.
“I completely understand why you are asking the question, but again, I can’t pre-commit or say yes I’m going in with some agenda because I’m not,” Barrett said. “I don’t have an agenda. I have no agenda to try to overrule Casey.”
Judicial nominees have long refused to answer questions about their opinions on contentious cases, but Barrett, unlike most recent high court nominees, has made several public statements about such issues in the past, including how the Supreme Court might change the parameters of abortion access.
As a Notre Dame law professor in 2013, Barrett signed a public letter criticizing the Roe decision and calling for “the unborn to be protected in law.” In 2006, she signed on to an ad that called for an “end to the barbaric legacy of Roe vs. Wade.”
On Tuesday, Barrett stopped short of referring to Roe vs. Wade as “settled precedent,” something past nominees have done, including Brett M. Kavanaugh.
Barrett also spoke about her frustration over how she had been portrayed in the media, saying she’s avoided coverage of her nomination for her mental health.
“You know you can’t keep yourself walled off from everything,” Barrett said. “And I’m aware of a lot of the caricatures that are floating around.”
Multiple news outlets have examined Barrett’s conservative Catholic faith and her membership in a controversial charismatic Christian group that former members and liberal critics have likened to a cult. The group has become a flashpoint in the nomination because of its teaching that men are the head of the family household.
Barrett said she and her husband didn’t have much time to consider the nomination but decided what would likely be an “excruciating” process was worth it.
“We knew that our faith would be caricatured; we knew our family would be attacked,” she said. “So we had to decide whether those difficulties would be worth it because what same person would go through that if there wasn’t a benefit on the other side. And the benefit , I think, is that I’m committed to the rule of law and the role of the Supreme Court and dispensing equal justice for all.”
There is very little Democrats can do to stop Barrett’s confirmation since Republicans appear to have the votes needed. So Democrats are hoping to use the hearings to highlight the possible threat her appointment would mean to the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans are asking the Supreme Court — for the third time — to invalidate. Democrats continued to use their hearing time to tell the stories of individual Americans who have benefitted from the 2010 law, also known as Obamacare.
“We have no magic panacea in terms of some kind of procedural tool,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told reporters. “We are going to fight like hell. We’ll use every tool that we have. But ultimately, we’re making our case to the American people through those real lives that are brought into the hearing room, and shown to be impacted.”