Vote for the people who can’t and for those whose rights and lives are on the line
It is easy to feel helpless in the wake of Amy Barrett’s speedy confirmation to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS)—a confirmation that would not have occurred under the U.S. Senate’s past rules for confirming Supreme Court justices. Prior to the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, a supermajority vote of 60 votes was required to end debate over a SCOTUS nominee. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, pushed through a rule in 2017 that lowered the required vote count needed to end debate and confirm a nominee to 51, which has paved the way for the political party in control of the Senate and White House to make lifetime appointments of increasingly ideological judges.
This rule has led to the confirmations of Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and, most recently, Amy Barrett to the Supreme Court despite the sexual assault accusations against Kavanaugh and more extreme ideology and the relative lack of qualifications of Barrett, who has only served as a judge since 2017.
Courts in the U.S. operate on the basis of precedents set by earlier decisions, particularly those written by Courts of Appeals and the Supreme Court, though these precedents have been overturned at pivotal moments in history. Barrett’s appointment to the Supreme Court has paved the way for precedents like Roe v. Wade, which guarantees a constitutional right to abortion, to potentially be overturned as the Court continues to hear cases regarding abortion rights and healthcare.
To be clear, not all populations will face the consequences of a Barrett appointment equally.
Although she has not ruled specifically on abortion before, her comments on abortion have been ambiguous, and she dissented to a case that threw out an Indiana law requiring abortion providers to bury or cremate fetuses, which would have put additional costs on individuals receiving abortions. Any rulings on abortion that Barrett may be part of will not affect all American women the same. Those who have the means to access safe abortions and reproductive care in certain states will likely be able to continue excercising their rights while impoverished people in areas who already have limited access to reproductive rights will be further disadvantaged.
People who can afford private insurance will not be as impacted as those who rely on the Affordable Care Act for basic health needs if Barrett’s vote swings the Court against upholding the provisions of the act. Barrett has already criticized previous rulings upholding the Affordable Care Act, which is of significant concern given that the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a challenge to the law on Nov. 10.
Barrett has walked through all the doors that trailblazers like Ruth Bader Ginsburg have opened for her, only to potentially shut them for generations of women to follow. As a lawyer, Ginsburg argued case after case to ensure federal statutes were applied equally on the basis of sex, and her win in Reed v. Reed in 1971 was the first time the Supreme Court ruled a law unconstitutional because of gender discrimination. As a judge, her famous dissents spurred Congress to create laws to combat discrimination.
It is incomprehensible that representatives––whose decisions affect all Americans––have chosen to replace her with Barrett. The fact that Barrett identifies as a woman does not mean she will uphold and expand women’s rights; in fact, her rhetoric indicates otherwise. Her comments and writings have suggested her future rulings will infringe on the rights generations of women have fought for and continue to defend.
In all honesty, we’re scared. Women’s reproductive rights are on the line. Providing healthcare for those who cannot afford private insurance may soon be deemed unconstitutional. SCOTUS Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito recently criticized Obergefell v. Hodges, a landmark decision which ensured same-sex couples had the consitutional right to marry—a decision that could potentially be overturned with Barrett’s addition. Literal lives are in peril, as Barrett’s own nomination ceremony turned into a superspreader event for COVID-19.
This is not the end. Although these issues may seem too large for citizens and college students to tackle, you can use your vote to make a difference, and it truly can impact the system.
Only 46.1% of eligible voters aged 18-29 voted in the 2016 election. You can be part of the generation that changes this number. It is Congressional members who write reformative legislation and Senators who confirm appointees. Yes, voting for the president of the U.S. is incredibly important, but voting for legislators who will pass laws and reforms to safeguard your rights is just as important.
Please, protect yourself and those around you, and vote like your rights depend on it—because, in all likelihood, they or those of someone you care about do.
Written by: The Editorial Board