For anti-abortion campaigners, the ascension of Amy Coney Barrett to the US Supreme Court would be the victory of a lifetime.

Ms Barrett, a faithful Catholic and deeply conservative lawyer, is set to be Donald Trump’s third appointee to the court — tilting it firmly to the right for a generation or more.

A longtime professor at Notre-Dame Law School, known for its religious faculty, and appeals court judge since 2017, Ms Barrett is a favourite of conservative activists who want to undo Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that created a constitutional right to abortion.

“The reason we love Amy Barrett is she is known to the grassroots, she has already been vetted,” said Mallory Quigley, vice-president of communications for the Susan B Anthony List, an anti-abortion political group, earlier this week.

The confidence Ms Barrett, 48, instils on the right, is equally matched by the fear she engenders on the left. Her elevation to the Supreme Court would replace a stalwart liberal, the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with a staunch conservative.

Ms Barrett’s faith, in particular, is a central point of contention between Republicans and Democrats. In 2017, the New York Times reported she was a member of People of Praise, a close knit Christian community that appoints mentors for each of its number.

She has been open about her views on morality in society, and has grappled publicly with questions about how devout judges should resolve tensions between their judicial duties and their religious beliefs.

Amy Coney Barrett has argued that Catholic judges were “morally precluded” from imposing the death penalty, and thus should recuse from such decisions © via REUTERS

In 2015, she signed a letter attesting to “marriage and family founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman”, among other traditional Catholic views. Earlier, in 2012, she added her name to a condemnation of the part of Obamacare that required employers to cover some contraceptive costs in their healthcare plans.

Her earliest scholarly work was a 1998 paper in which she argued that Catholic judges were “morally precluded” from imposing the death penalty, and thus should recuse from such decisions.

Democrats honed in on her religious views during her confirmation hearings in 2017 for an appeals court position, suspicious that she would allow them to influence her judgment on the bench.

Most memorably, Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate judiciary committee, declared: “the Dogma lives loudly within you”.

Republicans decried the imposition of what they claimed was a “religious test”. Ms Barrett told the committee that she would separate her personal religious views from her duties as a judge.

Since taking the bench, Ms Barrett has not authored any abortion-related opinions, though she has voted twice to rehear cases where pro-abortion advocates won.

In a third case last year, she voted to uphold a Chicago ordnance that bans protesters from approaching people at abortion clinics on the narrow ground of following Supreme Court precedent, which is binding on appeals courts.

Among her writings on the bench is a dissent arguing in favour of the Trump administration’s “public charge” policy, which allows the denial of green cards to immigrants who have received government benefits, and another dissent against the blanket federal ban on gun ownership by felons.

Ms Barrett would swing the court more firmly into the control of conservatives, who would have a 6-3 majority. Republicans hope she would more reliably deliver conservative victories than past appointees who have disappointed. In the most recent term, Chief Justice John Roberts, and even Neil Gorsuch, appointed by Mr Trump in 2017, have sided with the liberal wing on a handful of key cases.

A married mother of seven, including two adopted children, Ms Barrett was born in 1972 in New Orleans — she was herself the oldest of seven children. Her father was a lawyer at Shell Oil, while her mother was a homemaker.

Her legal education did not include the Ivy League institutions that have produced many top US lawyers. She studied English literature at Rhodes College before her law degree at Notre-Dame.

But she was marked out as a high-flyer early in her career, with clerkships with leading conservative judges like Laurence Silberman and Antonin Scalia, the late Supreme Court justice.

Ms Barrett spent a few years as a lawyer in private practice in Washington DC in the early 2000s, including some work on the legal battle between George Bush and Al Gore for the presidency in 2000. Mr Trump, foreshadowing a similar legal clash this year, has said he wants his nominee confirmed before the election to vote on any dispute with Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate.

By 2002, she had settled in at Notre-Dame university in Indiana.

A member of the Federalist Society, the influential conservative legal network, her name has been floated for previous Supreme Court vacancies that Mr Trump has filled. In 2019, Axios reported that Mr Trump said he had been “saving” Ms Barrett for Ginsburg’s seat.

Now her time has arrived, just weeks before a presidential election. When Republicans in 2016 blocked Barack Obama from filling Scalia’s seat after his death, then citing an election that was months away, Ms Barrett argued that such was politics.

Of course, a Senate controlled by a different party to the president would block their nominee, she told CBS in February 2016. Conversely, she added, “It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Senate is willing to push the President’s nominees through in an election year when they share the same political affiliation.”


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