WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, has staked out conservative positions on key hot-button issues including abortion and gun rights as a federal appellate judge and legal scholar.
Abortion rights groups have voiced concern that Barrett, picked by Trump on Sept. 26 to replace the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, would vote to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide if confirmed by the Senate.
While a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, a Catholic institution in Indiana, Barrett in 2006 signed on to an advertisement in an Indiana newspaper calling for Roe v. Wade to be overturned.
“It’s time to put an end to the barbaric legacy of Roe v. Wade and restore law that protects the lives of unborn children,” the advertisement, purchased by an anti-abortion organization called St. Joseph County Right to Life, stated.
Barrett, whose Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing is scheduled to run from Monday through Thursday, is a devout Roman Catholic and a favorite of religious conservatives. Trump in 2016 promised to appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade.
Barrett, 48, was appointed by Trump to the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017. She has proven reliably conservative in that post, voting in favor of one of Trump’s hardline immigration policies and showing support for expansive gun rights. She also authored a ruling making it easier for college students accused of campus sexual assaults to sue their institutions.
She has not yet ruled directly on abortion. But Barrett twice signaled opposition to rulings that struck down Republican-backed Indiana abortion-related restrictions - one in 2018 requiring fetal remains to be buried or cremated after an abortion, the other in 2019 involving parental notification for minors seeking an abortion - voting to have those decisions reconsidered.
In 2019, Barrett joined a ruling that upheld a Chicago measure that places limits on anti-abortion activists gathered outside abortion clinics. The ruling, written by Judge Diane Sykes, said the court had to apply Supreme Court precedent.
In a 1998 law journal article, she and another author said that Catholic judges who are faithful to their church’s teachings are morally precluded from enforcing the death penalty and should recuse themselves in certain cases. Barrett also has spoken publicly about her conviction that life begins at conception, according to a 2013 article in Notre Dame Magazine.
Barrett faced queries during her 2017 Senate confirmation hearing on her current judgeship over whether her Catholic faith would sway her decisions on the bench, a line of questioning that her defenders said revealed religious bigotry by Democrats.
Senator Dianne Feinstein told Barrett at the time: “The dogma lives loudly within you.” Barrett said her religious faith would not affect her judicial decisions.
Barrett indicated support for gun rights in a 2019 dissent when she objected to the court ruling that a nonviolent felon could be permanently prohibited from possessing a firearm, writing: “Founding-era legislatures did not strip felons of the right to bear arms simply because of their status as felons.”
She authored a ruling that revived a lawsuit by a male student who had been suspended from Purdue University in Indiana after being accused of sexual assault. He accused the school of discriminating against him on the basis of his gender. It was plausible, Barrett wrote, that Purdue officials chose to believe the female accuser “because she is a woman” and to disbelieve the male student accused “because he is a man.”
Barrett two decades ago served as a clerk for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a stalwart conservative who died in 2016, and said “the lessons I learned still resonate.”
“His judicial philosophy is mine too: A judge must apply the law as written. Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold,” Barrett said at the White House ceremony where Trump announced her nomination.
Barrett is married to Jesse Barrett, a lawyer in private practice and a former federal prosecutor in Indiana. They have seven children, two of whom were adopted from Haiti. Barrett and her family have been members of a Christian religious group called People of Praise, according to other members.
Craig Lent, the group’s overall coordinator, said in 2018 that the organization, whose membership is mostly Catholic, centers on close Christian bonds and looking out for one another. The group’s members also share a preference for charismatic worship, which can involve speaking in tongues.
Certain leadership positions are reserved for men. And while married men receive spiritual and other advice from other male group members, married women depend on their husbands for the same advice, Lent said.
“We’re not unaware that could be misunderstood. Every member is free and responsible for their own decisions. No one should be servile, no one should be domineering,” Lent said.
Some women in leadership positions used to be called handmaids, but now are referred to as “women leaders,” Lent said, to avoid the perception of servility.
Reporting by Andrew Chung and Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Téa Kvetenadze; Editing by Will Dunham
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.