The nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court has been received as an important success for the pro-life movement. Since the Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973, abortion has been considered a constitutional right for pregnant women. Pro-lifers have worked and hoped for a majority of pro-life justices in the Supreme Court that could one day overturn the Roe vs. Wade decision.
If confirmed, Barret will be the sixth Catholic justice in the nine-member court. One of the Catholic justices, Sonia Sotomayor, is a known supporter of abortion. But Barret would give the conservatives a majority in the Supreme Court.
“I further urge all members of the other side of the aisle to provide Judge Barrett with the respectful and dignified hearing that she deserves and, frankly, that our country deserves,” the president said. Regardless of his desire, the process of confirming Barrett will probably be acrimonious and polarizing.
Nevertheless, the Republicans hold a majority in the Senate and appeared united in their intention to confirm the president’s nominee.
Associate Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh, together with Chief Justice Roberts and Barret — if confirmed — theoretically would give the conservatives a clear majority.
Pro-lifers have a good reason to celebrate, but they should be cautious. A justice nominated by a Republican president or considered to be conservative does not always translate into decisions consistent with their previous positions.
Chief Justice Roberts, for example, has taken unexpected positions in some cases. Having a conservative majority or a pro-life majority in the Supreme Court does not guarantee that the Roe vs. Wade era will come to an end.
Also, conservative justices are not by nature activist justices. They usually proclaim that their job is not to make laws but just to make sure they are constitutional.
During her nomination ceremony, Amy Coney Barrett herself said that “A judge must apply the law as written. Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold.”
Barrett — if confirmed — and her colleagues will be cautious before changing the written law. On the other hand, many jurists agree that the Roe vs. Wade decision was not only disgraceful but also profoundly flawed from a legal point of view. Even some people who are pro-abortion recognize the decision was not judicially sound. That is another reason to think that it could be overturned.
Of course, overturning Roe vs. Wade won’t end abortion — it will simply establish that it is not a constitutional right. But overturning it would have an immense cultural and moral impact on our society. Abortion would still be legal, and it would be up to the states to regulate it. Things most likely wouldn’t change much in states where the prochoice voters are the majority.
Nominations of the best legal minds to the Supreme Court are a cause for celebration. The fact that Barrett is an extraordinary woman, a devoted Catholic, and a pro-life jurist should also be duly noted. This is an admirable woman who has raised seven children — one of them with special needs — while having an extraordinary career as a legal professor, scholar, and judge.