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Amy Coney Barrett Dodges Roe v. Wade Questions During SCOTUS Hearing

When pressed about her stance on Roe v. Wade, Barrett refused to answer directly, despite her demonstrated history of being anti-choice.

Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the second day of her confirmation hearing on October 13, 2020 | Getty Images
Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the second day of her confirmation hearing on October 13, 2020 | Getty Images

Judge Amy Coney Barrett dodged questioning about how she’d rule on abortion rights and Roe v. Wade during the second day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearings. The SCOTUS nominee told Senators that she doesn’t “have an agenda,” despite having a demonstrated history of being anti-choice.

On Tuesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), a ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, questioned Barrett on her views on Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that made abortion a constitutional right in the United States. 

Sen. Feinstein asked if Barrett agreed with the late Justice Antonin Scalia who said that Roe was “wrongly decided” and should be overruled. (Barrett clerked for Scalia early in her career and has been considered his ideological mentee.)

Instead of answering the question, Barrett invoked Justice Elena Kagan’s answer during her 2000 confirmation hearing, who Barrett said would not give a precedent “a thumbs up or thumbs down.” The Center for Reproductive Rights president said in a statement at the time that Kagan “expressed her support for the continued salience of the robust protections for women’s health in any regulation on abortion” during her hearing.

“It would be wrong and a violation of the canons for me to do that as a sitting judge,” Barrett said. “If I express a view on a precedent one way or another, whether I say I love it or I hate it, it signals to litigants that I might tilt one way or another in a pending case.” 

About 70 percent of Americans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, according to Pew Research Center data published in 2019.

Feinstein continued to press Barrett on the future of reproductive rights, which she called “a major cause with major effect on over half of the population of this country, who are women." Feinstein added, “It’s distressing not to get a straight answer.” 

“Do you agree with Justice Scalia’s view that Roe was wrongly decided?” Feinstein asked.

“Senator, I completely understand why you’re asking the question, but again, I can’t pre-commit or say ‘yes I’m going in with some agenda,’ because I’m not. I don’t have any agenda,” Barrett said. “I have an agenda to stick to the rule of law and decide cases as they come.”

Barrett was nominated by President Trump to take the seat of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was a champion of women’s rights during her 27 years on the Supreme Court. 

Sen. Feinstein prefaced her questions on Tuesday by citing Ginsburg’s “forthright” answers during her own confirmation hearings in 1993. Feinstein said Ginsburg “unequivocally confirmed her view that the constitution protects a woman’s right to abortion.” 

Barrett’s conservative views have come into the spotlight since her nomination, including her involvement with anti-abortion groups and LGBTQ+ hate groups. As a judge, Barrett has considered two abortion cases, and ruled against abortion rights in both. 

In 2006, Barrett signed an ad that called Roe. v Wade “barbaric” and advocated for abortion rights to be overturned.

Roe v. Wade continues to be a contentious issue in the U.S., and last week, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said in a town hall that he would make Roe “law of the land” if elected president.