Right now, we are standing at an inflection point. As a nation, we are forced to reckon with what the next generation of Americans will experience, and whether they will be able to look to their elected leaders and the U.S. Supreme Court to protect their rights, or see decades of progress slowly peeled away.
Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination represents that backward step. At a time when reproductive rights, LGBTQ equality and access to health care seem so precarious, Barrett’s nomination is a looming danger to far too many. Her nomination, as a virulently anti-choice judge, is also a personal danger to people like me.
Amy Coney Barrett:What to know about the U.S. Supreme Court nominee
I never thought I would have an abortion. I’m Catholic, and while I am firmly pro-choice, I never considered abortion to be an option I would ever choose for myself. I knew that if I had an unplanned pregnancy, I had a support system in place that would allow me to have a child.
And yet, I terminated a pregnancy two years ago this month.
This pregnancy wasn’t unwanted; I desperately wanted this baby. But at my 12-week ultrasound, my doctor discovered abnormal neuroanatomy. A specialist later confirmed the diagnosis: my baby’s brain never divided into two hemispheres and he was completely missing his frontal lobe. I was told that even if I was able to carry to term, the baby wouldn’t survive for more than a few hours or days. I don’t know what kind of pain those few hours would have brought him.
I remember sitting in the room before the procedure, devastated, but talking to my spouse about how fortunate we were that we didn’t live in a state that would make this painful situation any harder than it already was. If we had been in my home state of Indiana, which is also where Amy Coney Barrett lives, this experience would have been much more traumatic.
That same month, Indiana was fighting in court to implement a law designed to make it harder for women like me to end their pregnancies.
I was able, because of where I live, to make the choice that was best for my family. I was grateful I wouldn’t be forced to carry this pregnancy to term, putting my health at risk, worrying that I was causing my baby pain, and enduring the daily anguish of kind strangers wishing me “congratulations” without knowing the terrible reality of my situation.
I remember confiding in my mom how grateful I was that she supported my decision, despite her being opposed to abortion. Her response was, “Well, this situation doesn’t really count.”
But it does count. I had an abortion.
It was health care that I needed, even though it was nothing I ever would have wanted. And it is exactly that kind of health care that would disappear for far too many pregnant people if the Supreme Court limits or overturns Roe v. Wade.
Thankfully, much of Indiana’s law was ruled unconstitutional by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Amy Coney Barrett, however, joined a procedural dissent disagreeing with the decision. She has made it clear that she will not respect the constitutional right of women to have autonomy over their own bodies.
At least 17 abortion cases are currently just one step away from the Supreme Court. The court could allow these types of laws restricting access to abortion to be implemented in states across the country, leaving other people in tragic situations like mine little option but to unwillingly continue their pregnancies or go back to the days of unsafe, secret abortions.
Reproductive rights are not the only thing at risk because of Barrett’s nomination. The day after the election, the Supreme Court will hear a case that will consider whether governments must allow taxpayer-funded service providers to discriminate against LGBTQ people. As a bisexual person, I would be impacted by any decision imposing this sort of license to discriminate.
The week after the election, the Supreme Court will hear a case that threatens to undermine the Affordable Care Act. As someone with extensive pre-existing conditions, Barrett’s criticism of the Supreme Court upholding the ACA terrifies me.
There has been a lot of talk about how critiques of Amy Coney Barrett’s record are an attack on her religion. I am Catholic, too. My concern about Barrett is not about our mutual faith. It is because her nomination is a strident endorsement of an ideology that endangers the rights and safety of millions of Americans.
Her confirmation by the Senate would be an unconscionable backward leap for our country at a time when so many desperately need their human rights affirmed.
It is incumbent upon every one of us, and every one of our elected leaders, to reject this nomination, and instead seek the appointment of a justice who believes in the fundamental equality and dignity of all Americans.
Jennifer Pike Bailey is a senior public policy advocate for the Human Rights Campaign.