In the afternoon session on Wednesday, the fifth day of the Trump-appointed judge’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Amy Coney Barrett fielded a question from Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin on abortion rights. Barrett was not asked by the Senate Judiciary Committee’s chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley, or any other panel member, directly about her stance on Roe v. Wade — but the exchange demonstrates how Coney Barrett’s cred as a future Supreme Court justice might be at risk in the coming weeks.
After Baldwin asked about what to make of statements Coney Barrett has made that “every unborn child has a fundamental right to life,” the judge avoided getting drawn into an argument over the recent confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. “Senator, I don’t think the Supreme Court should be the one that decides that kind of technical question,” she said. “That question should be decided by the legislature.”
Her response drew a crowd-pleasing chuckle from Republicans and her fellow anti-abortion lawyer, conservative Chicago appellate judge William Pryor, who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
Lawyers on both sides of the abortion debate have urged senators to use the hearing to press Coney Barrett to clarify what she means by her more cautious language about the longstanding legal right to abortion in Roe v. Wade. If a future Supreme Court were to decide that the decision should be left to the legislature, the court decision could be overturned, subjecting all forms of abortion to legal restrictions.
Coney Barrett’s response about the “Supreme Court” and “Legislature” may be the key distinction on abortion in the court fight in the weeks to come. Her message: Abortion should be decided by state law, not the Supreme Court, even if some of its justices may believe that the landmark Roe v. Wade decision was wrongly decided.
Read more about Amy Coney Barrett:
Judge on the Supreme Court likely to oppose Roe v. Wade but others say …
Judge facing tougher questioning from senators than Judge Kavanaugh
Judge on the Supreme Court seen as friendlier to abortion rights