Barrett her career, as a woman in law school, a law professor able to teach while pregnant and a mother, and a judge, to Justice Ginsburg’s hard work.
When I heard the news last Friday, I knew how hard this would be. I mourned for an evening, then steeled myself for the battle over Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat. Now, we are in the midst of a pandemic that has claimed 200,000 American lives, 36 days from the most important election of our lifetimes, 43 days from oral arguments in the Trump administration’s attempt to overturn the Affordable Care Act, and with 17 abortion-related cases one step from the Supreme Court.
I know how much is at stake. I carry the weight of 2.4 million reminders: the Planned Parenthood patients struggling to live free in a country that has told them, again and again, that their bodies are not their own. On the bench, Justice Ginsburg wrote opinions that affirmed their right to access the care they need to make decisions about their health, their bodies, and their futures. Some of her fiercest moments came in her dissenting opinions, where she showed us what it means to show up to a fight even when you’re down.
Every woman in this country owes the bank account, credit card or mortgage she holds in her own name to Justice Ginsburg’s careful architecture of gender equality in American jurisprudence. The judge President Donald Trump just nominated to replace Justice Ginsburg, Amy Coney Barrett, owes her career –– as a woman in law school, a law professor able to teach while pregnant and a mother, and a judge on the federal bench –– to Justice Ginsburg’s hard work. Trump, Mitch McConnell, and their shameless allies will claim that nominating a woman to this seat honors Ginsburg’s legacy. But they don’t want someone to stand on her shoulders –– they want someone to stomp on our rights.
President Trump said that he would only nominate justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. As expected, the two appointments he has made to the Supreme Court — Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — have already ruled against access to abortion. Now, by nominating Barrett, Trump is again trying to make good on his threat.
Barrett opposes abortion rights, and has suggested that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be revisited. She was a member of Notre Dame’s Faculty for Life Group from 2010 to 2016. She’s also a staunch originalist –– interpreting the Constitution, a document written by slaveholders, as if our country should be frozen in time. If confirmed, Amy Coney Barrett would be the youngest jurist on the Supreme Court, shaping jurisprudence for a generation.
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Trump will crow incessantly about how he nominated a woman. And of course representation matters. I look forward to the day when, as Justice Ginsburg hoped, there will be nine women on the Supreme Court. But across this country, Black women and Latinas know that their gender doesn’t protect them from the marginalization they face because of their race and ethnicity. To face the intersectional injustices of life in America, they need someone who will protect their human and civil rights. Ruth Bader Ginsburg understood that –– she didn’t just fight for women, she fought for everyone that the powerful had counted out.
For those women –– those with low incomes or who face state law barriers that already keep abortion out of reach and those whose work has been deemed essential even as their right to control their bodies has not –– Barrett’s nomination isn’t just an empty token: it’s an active threat.
Women aren’t interchangeable pieces in a political game. Context matters. Conviction matters. And I have to believe that legacy matters. So now, we do what Justice Ginsburg taught us to do. We dissent. We get loud. We all rise, for Justice Ginsburg. We will fight with everything we have to stop any Supreme Court confirmation before the inauguration. The people must decide who will join the highest court in the land.
This seat should be filled by someone who understands that she stands in a line she can’t see, extending straight behind her through Justice Ginsburg and every woman who fought for her privilege to be there. Women whose sacrifice means she has control over her own career, her own life, her own body. Women whose freedom, whether she acknowledges it or not, is tied up with her own. Nothing about Barrett’s record suggests she will fight for those women –– but we sure as hell will.
Alexis McGill Johnson is president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
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