WASHINGTON — Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, signed a statement in a 2006 newspaper advertisement opposing “abortion on demand.”
Barrett was a law professor at Notre Dame at the time, and her name was among those of hundreds of residents of the region surrounding South Bend, Indiana, known as Michiana. The statement appears to be her first direct public expression of her views on abortion, which are at the heart of much of the opposition to her nomination.
“We, the following citizens of Michiana, oppose abortion on demand and defend the right to life from fertilization to natural death,” said the statement, published in an advertisement in the South Bend Tribune by St. Joseph County Right to Life, which is now known as Right to Life Michiana and says it is “one of the oldest continuously active pro-life organizations in the nation.”
Her endorsement of the statement was immediately seized upon by Democrats, who said it undercut efforts by Trump and other Republicans to suggest that Barrett’s position on abortion was unknown or unclear.
There has long been little question that Barrett personally opposes abortion, based on her Catholic faith, accounts of friends, her supporters’ confidence and suggestions in her academic writings. But the statement in the advertisement boiled it down to a declarative sentence.
Another part of the advertisement, which did not bear Barrett’s explicit endorsement, quoted from Justice Byron White’s dissent in a companion case to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion. White said that creating a right to abortion was “an exercise of raw judicial power.”
The advertisement went on to say that “it’s time to put an end to the barbaric legacy of Roe v. Wade and restore laws that protect the lives of unborn children.”
In remarks after Trump announced her nomination last month, Barrett said she would put her personal beliefs aside in weighing cases on the Supreme Court. “Judges are not policymakers,” she said, “and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold.”
At the 2017 confirmation hearing for her current position, as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, in Chicago, she said she would be bound to follow the Roe decision as an appeals court judge.
“Roe has been affirmed many times and survived many challenges in the court,” she said. “And it’s more than 40 years old, and it’s clearly binding on all courts of appeals. And so it’s not open to me or up to me, and I would have no interest in, as a court of appeals judge, challenging that precedent.”
Asked whether Roe had been “correctly decided,” she did not give a direct answer.
“I feel like I can’t, as a nominee, offer an opinion,” she said. “I don’t want to give the impression that I would treat some precedents as more binding or more valuable than others.”
In remarks to students at Notre Dame in 2013, as reported in a student newspaper, Barrett said the core right to abortion established in Roe appeared secure.
“I think it is very unlikely at this point that the court is going to overturn Roe,” she said. “The fundamental element, that the woman has a right to choose abortion, will probably stand,” she said.
If Barrett is confirmed to the Supreme Court, she will bolster its five-member conservative majority with a sixth vote, moving the court slightly but firmly to the right and putting the right to abortion at heightened risk.
On the Supreme Court, Barrett could take a fresh look at the right to abortion, and she has written that it may be entitled to less respect than some other precedents.
“The public response to controversial cases like Roe,” she wrote in a 2013 law review article, “reflects public rejection of the proposition that stare decisis” — Latin for “to stand by things decided” — “can declare a permanent victor in a divisive constitutional struggle.”
Barrett did not submit the 2006 newspaper advertisement to the Senate Judiciary Committee, though it was arguably responsive to requests for “books, articles, reports, letters to the editor, editorial pieces or other published material you have written or edited.” The advertisement was earlier reported by The Guardian and The National Review.