A Kavanaugh-Barrett Supreme Court Will Not Work for Women
Updated: Sep 29
When Ruth Bader Ginsburg was asked when she would be satisfied with the number of women on the Supreme Court, she famously replied, “when there are nine” (1).
In a perfunctory attempt to honor the late Supreme Court Justice (or, more realistically, to gain support from female voters), the President promised to appoint a woman as her replacement. He did not attempt to justify the fact that in doing so, he is blatantly ignoring Justice Ginsburg’s dying wish and continuing along a trajectory that aims to diminish the power of women.
In her decades as a lawyer and judge, RBG continually pushed the envelope on womens’ rights, fighting for the equal protection of women under the law in all aspects of our lives. Because of cases Justice Ginsburg tried as a litigator and judge, women can study at state funded-schools, are protected against pregnancy discrimination, are entitled to equal pay, and much more (2).
Case after case, Ginsburg’s Supreme Court became a beacon of equal rights for women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and minorities; leaving a legacy of empowerment that is sure to galvanize these communities for decades to come. But if the Ginsburg-era Supreme Court symbolized equality and progress, what will the Kavanaugh-Barrett era Court come to represent? Female representation on the Supreme Court means little when the institution is poised to become an obstacle for the advancement of women's’ rights.
The Trump Administration’s appropriation of the Supreme Court for the conservative political agenda was well on its way before Justice Ginsburg’s passing, and has aimed to silence women’s voices in its path. Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Court, despite Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s compelling and credible accusation against him of sexual assault, was a flagrant dismissal of women’s voices. His position on the court continues to be a reminder of oppression for women, who, in 2018, opposed his confirmation by 58-35 percent (3).
Not two years later, the president has selected Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill Justice Ginsburg on the Court - an honor that has been tainted by Kavanaugh’s confirmation and the Republicans' hypocritical decision to rush the confirmation process for Trump’s nominee before the election.
Anti-abortion groups have championed Judge Barrett, who views the decision in Roe vs. Wade as a shaky court precedent. As a Federal Appeals Court Judge, Barrett considered multiple laws to restrict women's rights to abortion. Further, she has been openly critical of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate, a matter on which the Supreme Court will rule in November. The deconstruction of Roe vs. Wade and the ACA would have catastrophic impacts on women and families, and would only scratch the surface of the work that Barrett, along with Trump’s other appointees, are prepared to do to reverse RBG’s legacy and women's equality (7).
Judge Amy Coney Barrett is revered by her students and fellow faculty at Notre Dame and has certainly earned acclaim in the legal world (8). A legitimate selection to succeed Justice Ginsburg and a devotee to legal precedent, she is sure to justify her decisions under the Constitution - but if the precedent Barrett has set for herself says anything, these decisions will almost certainly unravel the late Justice Ginsburg’s life work utilizing the document to expand the rights of the modern woman.
As she accepted President Trump’s nomination to the Supreme Court, Judge Barrett ironically noted the timely nature of her selection to the court, “The flag of the United States is still flying at half staff in memory of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg… she not only broke glass ceilings, she smashed them” (9).
Let’s be clear though, Barrett is not a replacement who will further Ginsburg’s legacy.
Indeed, she is sure to reverse much of the progress that Ginsburg fought for; to gradually and effectively piece back together the glass ceilings that Justice Ginsburg smashed. Female representation is about more than holding the identity of a woman in a position of power. Female representation is about furthering women's rights to a place of unnoticed equal rights. Unfortunately, a Supreme Court with both Kavanaugh and Barrett is completely antithetical to the notions of equality that we thought we're in the process of achieving.
Therefore, because we cannot count on the Court to carry out RGB’s legacy, it’s up to us.