Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett signed letter calling for overturn of "barbaric" Roe v. Wade

"It's time to put an end to the barbaric legacy of Roe v. Wade," the newspaper ad from the anti-choice group read

Published October 2, 2020 12:18PM (EDT)

Amy Coney Barrett (University of Notre Dame)
Amy Coney Barrett (University of Notre Dame)

President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett signed an open letter in 2006 demanding that courts overturn Roe v. Wade. It referred to the landmark ruling, which guaranteed women the legal right to abortion, as a "barbaric" decision.

"The Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion for any reason," read the letter, first reported by The Guardian. "It's time to put an end to the barbaric legacy of Roe v. Wade and restore laws that protect the lives of unborn children."

Barrett and her husband joined hundreds of others in signing the letter, which an anti-choice group placed in the South Bend Tribune. At the time, she was teaching law at the University of Notre Dame.

While the letter reflects the ideology held by a vast majority of conservatives, it may pose a hurdle for Barrett's confirmation to the high court. Democratic Senate aides told NBC News that Barrett should have disclosed the letter in her judiciary confirmation questionnaire as part of her response to a question asking for citations of "books, articles, reports, letters to the editor, editorial pieces or other published material you have written or edited."

St. Joseph County Right to Life, the group who placed the ad, claims that life begins at fertilization. It has also called for the criminalization of discarded frozen or unused embryos created through in vitro fertilization — an extreme position even among the anti-choice movement.

Conservative journalist Ramesh Pannuru defended Barrett by claiming that she had signed on to the half of the letter calling for an end to "abortion on demand" — not the half calling Roe "barbaric." The pages appeared side-by-side in the newspaper.

Trump, who pledged to nominate anti-choice justices, dismissed Democratic nominee Joe Biden's claim that Roe v. Wade was on the ballot in November at Tuesday evening's presidential debate. Trump claimed that Barrett's views on abortion were still a mystery.

"It's not on the ballot," Trump said. "There's nothing happening there. You don't know her view on Roe v. Wade."

Asked about the matter over the weekend, Trump told Fox News that "it will work out." However, the president did not clarify the meaning of his words.

"She is certainly conservative in her views — in her rulings," Trump said. "And we'll have to see how that all works out, but I think it will work out."

But Republican lawmakers have publicly stated the opposite. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri told Senate reporters on Tuesday that Barrett's anti-choice views were "awfully clear."

"I think that's one where she meets my standard of having evidence in the record — out there in public, on the record — that indicates that she understands Roe was really an act of judicial imperialism and wrongly decided," Hawley said.

Barrett's open views on abortion, as well as the extreme religious doctrine which appears to inform those views, will come under scrutiny as senators weigh her background and qualifications — including from nominally pro-choice moderates like Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

The New York Times reported last week that Barrett and her husband were members of People of Praise, an obscure Christian sect which opposes abortion and teaches that God has willed men to assume authority over their wives and family.

According to The Times, People of Praise describes itself as a "charismatic Christian community" whose members swear "a lifelong oath of loyalty, called a covenant, to one another, and are assigned and are accountable to a personal adviser, called a 'head' for men and a 'handmaid' for women."

The Associated Press (AP) reported that former women members of the group said wives were taught to obey their husbands at all times – and must provide sex on demand.

One woman told the AP that the group barred her access to birth control, because wives were expected to have as many as children as God allowed.

Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who finds himself in an unexpectedly fierce re-election fight, said the committee's process was merely a pro forma matter.

"So, we'll start on Oct. 12, and more than half of the Supreme Court justices who have had hearings were done within 16 days or less," he told Fox News. "We'll have a day of introduction. We'll have two days of questioning: Tuesday and Wednesday. And on the 15th, we'll begin to markup. We'll hold it over for a week, and we'll report her nomination out of the committee on Oct. 22."

"Then it will be up to (Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell as to what to do with the nomination once it comes out of committee," Graham said.

By Roger Sollenberger

Roger Sollenberger was a staff writer at Salon (2020-21). Follow him on Twitter @SollenbergerRC.

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Abortion Amy Coney Barrett Donald Trump Josh Hawley Politics Republicans Roe V. Wade Supreme Court