The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg became an undeniable icon of the nation’s highest court and, despite her liberal ideology, was respected even by many conservatives who disagreed with her on certain issues.
After her death, then-President Donald Trump nominated Justice Amy Coney Barrett — and even the left-leaning Washington Post has now determined that the conservative jurist has become Ginsburg’s successor on the issue of gender equality.
Justices weigh in on stare decisis
That unexpected admission came in after Wednesday’s oral arguments in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which involves a legal challenge against Mississippi’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Justices are considering whether the state should be permitted to institute a limit on abortions performed before the point of viability, or about 24 weeks.
The court’s conservative justices signaled that they would consider overturning or altering the precedent-setting cases of 1973’s Roe v. Wade, which established federal abortion rights, and 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which set viability as the standard.
A primary focus of the arguments in this case is the legal concept of stare decisis, or a court’s respect and adherence to prior precedents.
Liberal justices and attorneys representing the Mississippi abortion clinic have argued in favor of upholding the two prior rulings. Justice Samuel Alito, however, raised several points in favor of overturning “egregiously wrong” precedents, suggesting he would be open to striking down the Roe and Casey decisions.
“Abortion rights may just be the beginning”
As for why the Post asserted that Barrett had assumed her predecessor’s mantle as an icon of women’s rights, it apparently stemmed from a line of questioning she pursued regarding adoption and other options available to women considering abortion.
The conservative justice noted that “safe haven” laws in all 50 states allow parents to relinquish their rights and drop off a newborn baby at designated locations with no questions asked.
“So it seems to me, seen in that light, both Roe and Casey emphasize the burdens of parenting, and insofar as you and many of your amici focus on the ways in which forced parenting, forced motherhood, would hinder women’s access to the workplace and to equal opportunities, it’s also focused on the consequences of parenting and the obligations of motherhood that flow from pregnancy,” Barrett said.
She went on to argue that, although carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term constitutes “an infringement on bodily autonomy,” available alternatives to abortion minimize that burden.
While the Post was clearly not endorsing her position, the outlet concluded that like Ginsburg before her, Barrett “seems ready to make waves when it comes to defining what constitutional equality of the sexes means,” adding that “abortion rights may just be the beginning.”