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Amy Coney Barrett is no RBG

| Friday, October 2, 2020

“When you grow up as a girl, it is like there are faint chalk lines traced approximately three inches around your entire body at all times, drawn by society and often religion and family and particularly other women, who somehow feel invested in how you behave…” — E. Thomas.

Being a woman presents numerous challenges, some of which have resisted decades of activism and societal/cultural evolution. One thing I have recently learned is that men are not the only ones to blame. Astonishingly, women too can stand opposed to feminism and equality, even if this opposition manifests itself implicitly. Ever since it was announced that Judge Amy Coney Barrett was nominated to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court, a plethora of opinions have been shared through columns, interviews, posts and tweets. I was sifting through some of these, researching facts and trying to form an opinion on this novel news. A tweet that particularly struck me was one posted by L. Knott Ahern. It went like this: “Ruth Bader Ginsburg is going to be replaced by a woman who walked through every door that Ginsburg opened for her so she can promptly use her position to shut them all for others behind her.”

Kerry Schneeman I Observer Viewpoint

Headlines by nationwide renowned publications condemned Barrett’s nomination. The New York Times published an opinion piece entitled “Amy Barrett is No RBG.” Robin Givhan with The Washington Post went even further, saying that “Amy Barrett, Trump’s Nominee, lacks RBG’s gravitas.” Headlines condemned this nomination as ‘an affront,’ ‘bad for women’ and even ‘terrible for RBG’s legacy.’ 

Justice Ruth Bade Ginsburg, a canny, forward-thinking and audacious feminist, undoubtedly left behind an pertinent legacy. Despite the fact that her education and fragments of her career bore the effects of the culturally dominant and enshrined discrimination of her times, Ginsburg reimagined the world for us. Her efforts were in principal directed towards establishing equality between men and women particularly before the law. In the 1970s, as a co-founder of the A.C.L.U.’s Women’s Rights Project, she argued six sex-discrimination cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and won five. She sought to invalidate laws that barred men from taking advantage of certain benefits, driving home the point — to an all-male court — that unequal treatment hurts everyone equally.

Unfortunately, it seems that Barrett is nestled amongst the conservative block that opposed RBG. I do recognize Barrett’s impeccable intellectual and professional credentials, yet her record as a judge stands in stark contrast to Ginsburg’s. In “Trump’s nominee is no RBG,” Givhan writes, “In her remarks, Barrett paid tribute to the late Justice Antonin Scalia for whom she clerked. She honored Ginsburg, too. Then she talked about her passion for mothering and driving the carpool and planning birthday parties. And certainly if her rough sketch of her home life is accurate, she is a lovely neighbor and an attentive mom. But she has not been nominated to the school board.”

Barrett has written that abortion is “always immoral,” and joined two dissents against decisions supporting the right to choose. One decision stopped the enforcement of a state law that would have required a minor — regardless of her maturity or family situation — to notify her parents of her decision to have an abortion, giving them veto power, unless a judge found this was not in her best interest.

Many believe that Barrett will oppose Roe v. Wade, a landmark legal decision issued on January 22, 1973, in which the Supreme Court effectively legalized the procedure across the U.S.

Roe was decided on the right to privacy, a right that reaches far beyond access to abortion. Privacy is fundamental to a notion of conscience and to bodily autonomy; it is the connective tissue linking voting rights to health care, disability rights, reproductive justice and protection from discrimination in employment and housing. RBG knew that reproductive rights are pivotal to equal protection before the law for women. 

Barrett’s anti-feminism is about more than abortion rights. Yes, throwing abortion back into the hands of individual states will compound the lack of access to healthcare that poor women — and disproportionately women of color — routinely face, along with creating a myriad of legal recognition issues. But more importantly, as Leigh Gilmore writes for WBUR, “replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a woman who is an anti-feminist is just as cynical as replacing civil rights titan Thurgood Marshall with a Clarence Thomas, a Black nominee who was avowedly hostile to affirmative action.”

It is no secret that the next justice appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court will drastically affect women’s fundamental rights, including the right to control their own bodies and the access to affordable health care. As Leigh Gilmore writes, “Women who use their power to harm other women by reducing their rights and freedom are anti-feminist.” The fact that the nominee is a woman matters less if she does not support the causes at the heart of Ginsburg’s long fight for gender equality. 

Krista Akiki is a sophomore at Notre Dame majoring in business analytics. Coming from Beirut, Lebanon, she always enjoys trying out new things and is an avid travel-lover. She hopes to take her readers on her journey as she navigates college life and stands up for the issues she believes. She can be reached at [email protected] or @kristalourdesakiki on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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