Femininity v. Feminism



Edy MacKenzie, Opinions Section Editor

Amy Coney Barrett is now, officially, a United States Supreme Court Justice. This is not your average appointment, having occurred just eight days previous to the presidential election and having brought so much controversy to the public. There are current court cases up for discussion that determine the rights and liberties of the American people; Roe v. Wade, the Affordable Care Act, Obergefell. This is the world that we will enter into as adults, and our current politics are presently deciding the lives of millions.

After the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who battled in both her personal and professional lives for basic women’s rights, it seemed only natural that the next president to elect a Justice would pick a woman in law. Amy Coney Barrett frequently sports pink clothing, ruffles, and jewelry. She is a working mother of seven and an active church member. She seems to be a symbol of hope and a person to look up to for Conservative women. But how much has she accomplished for women’s rights while in court?

Women have battled for decades on the right to safely and lawfully choose the best option for them in the instance of pregnancy. Countless women saw the decision to legalize abortion without extensive government intervention, underlined by Roe v. Wade in 1973, as an important step in their reproductive freedom. However, Barrett has made her religious beliefs and stance on abortion very clear throughout her career. 

Although Barrett has stated, in 2016, that she does not believe the core principle of Roe v. Wade, the right to legal abortion, will be challenged, she has confirmed her position on the matter in multiple instances. Barrett wrote about the Catholic church’s “always immoral” take on abortion while teaching at Notre Dame, as well as signed multiple anti-abortion letters earlier this decade. Barrett also garners support from pro-life groups and organizations. While serving Court in Indiana, she voted on multiple abortion crackdowns and government regulations. She denied that Roe v. Wade was a super precedent. When asked on October 13 by Senator Dianne Feinstein if she believes, along with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, that Roe was wrongly decided, Barrett states “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 litigance that I might tilt one way or another in appending case.”

Let us remember that, in 1993, Ruth Bader Ginsburg made her stance on abortion very clear: “This is something central to a woman’s life, to her dignity. It’s a decision that she must make for herself.”

Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, believe in legal abortions or don’t, there is still no question that a Republican majority Supreme Court is looking to crackdown on rights given to women over the last fifty-some years. This includes the Affordable Care Act, another precedent Barrett refused to voice her opinion on, which underlines the inclusion of contraceptives in health insurance plans. 

Contraceptives are not just used by women to prevent pregnancy and allow them to be as “irresponsible” as they want. This is a misogynistic belief that again stems from the idea that a female’s only purpose is to carry and deliver children. Birth control can also be used to prevent painful and irregular periods that interrupt and harm a woman’s life. They help reduce acne, cramps, and excessive hormones as a result of the menstrual cycle. They can keep reproductive organs healthy, lower the risk of cancers, and help treat diseases such as Endometriosis and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Just like Planned Parenthood does more for women than provide abortions, contraceptives have other health benefits. 

But still, certain religious government officials and pro-life groups regard the usage of contraceptives as a pathway to abortion, and therefore a punishable crime. The overturning of Roe v. Wade could mean the end of such medicines. Just like with abortion, even if contraceptives were not explicitly banned for the American people, the court can still threaten their availability. With Barrett serving as a Justice, crucial health options for women are now under constant debate and scrutiny. For many women, this is terrifying. 

Amy Coney Barrett was meaningfully vague in her responses about overturning certain rulings related to women’s rights, such as the Affordable Care Act, Planned Parenthood, and Roe. But make no mistake, she wasn’t appointed to suddenly rethink her opinions about women’s rights. Barrett has been given a purpose by President Trump, and it is to carry out the Republican party’s beliefs like a Biden-appointed judge wouldn’t. Crucial changes are about to occur, and the American people are not being given rightful representation. As of Barrett’s nomination, Trump has appointed one-third of the Supreme Court, despite losing the 2016 popular vote. Moreover, the Pew Research Center conducted a study in August of 2019 showing that 70% of Americans do not wish for Roe v. Wade to be overturned.

To add to the fire, let us never forget that, when Senator Sheldon Whitehouse asked Barrett, “under an originalist theory of interpretation, would there be any constitutional problem with a state making abortion a capital crime, thus subjecting women who get abortions to the death penalty?,” she proceeded to respond with a chillingly horrific statement: “As a sitting judge and as a judicial nominee, it would not be appropriate for me to offer an opinion on abstract legal issues or hypotheticals.” I might be unique in opinion, but this appears to be a pretty straightforward question to answer. Killing women because they did not choose to keep their child seems a little “anti-life” to me.

For those out there celebrating Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination as a win for women and an accurate follow-up to the legacy that was RBG, I ask you to reconsider what this appointment means for basic human rights. Our new Supreme Court shaped by Barrett’s inclusion is not looking to uplift the female sex, but tear down its progress to equality. It is unsettling that a Justice who cannot even name the five basic freedoms can worm her way into the personal decisions of millions.