When Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the Supreme Court late last month, the shock waves were felt throughout the country and by students here on campus. Now, Justice Barrett and the rest of the Supreme Court are hearing arguments on the Affordable Care Act. The ACA allows students to stay on their parents health insurance until they’re 26.
Nominated by President Donald Trump to be the 115th Supreme Court justice, Barrett is only the fifth woman to sit on the court in its 231-year history.
Barrett is the successor of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September and was an advocate for women’s rights and gender equality. Ginsburg is likely most famous for her role in Roe v. Wade, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that gave women the right to abortion.
“Her record cannot compare to Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave her that opening,” said Raiden Gonzalez, freshman political science major and president of the ESU Young Dems. “I just don’t believe that she deserves the spot. I just feel like it was kind of stolen even though Ruth Bader Ginsberg had died.”
Barrett’s ability to vote as a bipartisan member of the Court was called into question by critics of her appointment, as she has voiced strong conservative and traditional Catholic beliefs and has signed statements opposing abortion. For students, one of the biggest concerns was how her beliefs may guide her vote to repeal or dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which is currently under review at the Supreme Court.
But her supporters have confidence in her upholding the Constitution.
“I think that it's really easy for people to look at her and say, ‘Oh well she's a conservative, she's pro-life...so automatically she's going to vote with the president one hundred percent of the time,” said Mackenzie Haddix, elementary education major and president of the Emporia State Collegiate Republicans. “I think she's a smart woman, and she’s even said herself, she's not going to be pushed around and told how to vote by anybody so I just really admire that. I definitely do think that’s a misunderstanding about her and how she would vote.”
As of Tuesday the court is deciding whether or not the ACA should be overturned as a whole or if eliminating the individual mandate alone is constitutional. Barrett’s decision will receive extra attention, especially because she is the newest member, taking the Court from a 5-4 Republican majority to 6-3.
But, Michael Smith, professor and chair of the social sciences department, said that although the judges have their own beliefs, it does not mean they will side with the president who nominated them, nor does it mean they will automatically lean one way.
“We often hear, ‘Well, it’s 5-4’ so there are 5 conservatives and 4 liberals,’ It doesn’t really work like that,” Smith said. “The judges don’t always rule as liberal or conservative and so it’s not a neat, clean 5-4...What Barrett’s appointment does is it means the judges that are generally considered conservative, all of whom were appointed by Republican presidents, now have a 6-3 majority.”
Barrett’s appointment has also received an excess amount of attention due to the hastiness of her nomination by President Trump and her quick confirmation by the Senate, especially in comparison to the unsuccessful nomination of Merrick Garland by former president Barack Obama with eight months left in his term. Republicans in the Senate refused to confirm Garland, saying it would be unfair to the American people because of the upcoming 2016 presidential election.
“(Barrett’s confirmation) is also historic in some unfortunate ways. In particular the incredibly rushed nature of her confirmation in which things were done at night, things were done very hurriedly,” Smith said. “Democrats are not soon going to get over the fact that Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland was appointed with quite a bit more time left in Obama’s term than Barrett was appointed within Trump's first term. And Marek Garland did not get a hearing.”
As with all Supreme Court confirmations, Barrett’s presence could transform U.S. law. Progressives are concerned what influence she might have on religious rights, LGBTQ protections, abortion and federal regulation of the environment.