President Trump has said he will announce his nominee for Supreme Court justice on Monday, July 9. His pick, if confirmed, would replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, a key swing vote on the court who will be retiring. Court watchers are specifically checking out contenders' positions on abortion rights, and their stances could change reproductive rights in a massive way. The two frontrunners for the nomination are Brett Kavanaugh, a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court, and Amy Coney Barrett, (opens in new tab) a relatively new judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, reports CBS News.
Kavanaugh is seen as having more support from the establishment, while Barrett appeals to Trump's grassroots base. Kavanaugh has said in the past he considered Roe v. Wade to be settled law, but Barrett's position isn't as clear.
How Barrett Has Stood on Faith and Abortion
Barrett has only been on the circuit court bench for less than a year, so experts mainly have her academic scholarship to pore over, rather than her judicial record. The judge, who is Catholic, has had a history of conservative stances on reproductive rights, as seen in her writing.
SCOTUSblog notes that her first law review article discussed the Catholic Church's lessons about the death penalty, writing that Catholic judges should sometimes recuse themselves in those cases. The article, which she cowrote with law professor John Garvey, called prohibitions on abortion and euthanasia "absolute" because they "take away innocent life."
WATCH: Judge Amy Coney Barrett, one of President Trump's candidates for the Supreme Court, has expressed a "certain hostility" toward Roe v. Wade. pic.twitter.com/e3dRKiSQA9July 4, 2018
The former Notre Dame law professor's Catholic faith was an issue during her confirmation hearings for the circuit court. Democrats, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, grilled her about how her faith impacts her judging. “[When] you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you," Feinstein told her. "And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.”
Barrett, who once clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia, insisted that her personal opinions would have "no bearing" on her decisions as a judge. The debate didn't affect her confirmation, and Politico notes some conservatives say the testy exchange actually propelled her further up the list for Supreme Court consideration. Plus, Barrett is a woman, a mother of seven, in her mid-40s, and a person of faith, all aspects that may appeal to Trump on an optics level, CNN adds.
Barrett herself said during her confirmation hearing, "Roe has been affirmed many times and survived many challenges in the court. And it's more than 40 years old and it's clearly binding on all courts of appeals." Reuters notes that she has previously said she personally believes life begins at conception, but also has said she doubted Roe v. Wade would be overturned.
Why Roe v. Wade Is Important Right Now
The newest justice could make a decision on abortion rights fairly quickly, Politico reports, because abortion cases are currently working their way through lower courts. And legal experts say these smaller cases could lead to a larger discussion about Roe v. Wade, and if that 1973 ruling were overturned, states could decide to make abortion illegal.
But overturning Roe would go against general public opinion. A Politico/Morning Consult poll, conducted right after Justice Kennedy's retirement announcement, found 52 percent of respondents hope a new justice protects women's abortion rights, while 29 percent hoped the justice opposed abortion rights, and 19 percent didn't know or had no opinion.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a moderate Republican who is seen as a crucial vote, has said she wouldn't support a nominee who "would demonstrate hostility" to Roe v. Wade. She may have been referring to another potential nominee, federal appeals court judge William Pryor, who once called the Roe decision an "abomination," though his chances are slim.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has slammed both Barrett and Kavanaugh on Twitter over their abortion rights stances.
The bottom line: Judge Barrett has given every indication that she will be an activist judge on the Court. If chosen as the nominee, she will be the deciding vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and to strike down pre-existing conditions protections in the ACA. #WhatsAtStakeJuly 2, 2018
Brett Kavanaugh is a judge on the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit & on @realDonaldTrump’s pre-approved list, having passed the “litmus test” on overturning Roe v. Wade & striking down protections for ppl w/ pre-ex conditions in the ACA. Here’s #WhatsAtStake if he’s confirmed:July 3, 2018
It remains to be seen how either nomination would play out in the Senate.
Megan Friedman is the former managing editor of the Newsroom at Hearst. She's worked at NBC and Time, and is a graduate of Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism.
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