Recently, news broke that Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s deeply-conservative nominee to the Supreme Court, supported an anti-choice group whose extreme views include criminalizing in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment. In a 2006 newspaper advertisement signed by Barrett, St. Joseph Right to Life advocated for defending “the right to life from fertilization to natural death.”
Jackie Appleman, the group’s executive director, told the Guardian that St. Joseph Right to Life “would be supportive of criminalizing the discarding of frozen embryos or selective reduction through the IVF process.”
Appleman went on to say that they are not supportive of criminalizing women “at this point.” Count me unconvinced.
Barrett’s anti-choice record was already alarming and well-documented. Still, her decision to support such a group is an example of just how far outside the mainstream she and other anti-choice politicians are regarding reproductive rights.
It is also a reminder that the extreme anti-choice agenda threatens access to abortion care and people’s ability to become parents, start families, and ultimately control their own lives.
Anti-choice politicians across the country have a long record of pushing “personhood” legislation that would, in addition to criminalizing abortion, also endanger access to infertility treatments such as IVF. By conferring full legal rights on fertilized embryos, personhood proposals would criminalize anything that puts a fertilized embryo at risk, including IVF treatment.
This is dangerous, and it speaks to the true motives behind the anti-choice movement: deny people’s bodily autonomy and dictate their most deeply-personal decisions.
Video: Fears loom Trump SCOTUS pick a step towards upending LGBTQ rights (MSNBC)
That’s why Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (D-Ky.) mad rush to confirm Barrett to a lifelong appointment just weeks before the election is a stunning abuse of power that will spell political trouble for Republicans for years to come.
Millions of Americans conceive through IVF each year, and 1 in 8 of us struggle with infertility. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), whose two daughters were conceived with the help of IVF, implored her Senate colleagues to oppose Barrett’s nomination, writing that “Barrett’s decision to associate her name to such an organization is disqualifying and, quite frankly, insulting to every parent, hopeful parent or would-be parent who has struggled to start a family.”
Even in deep-red Mississippi, voters rejected a personhood amendment at the ballot box by a 58-42 margin.
As an abortion clinic operator in deep-red states, I know from first-hand experience that voters in the south and midwest hold far more nuanced opinions on abortion than either side gives them credit for. Yes, they may support some restrictions, but they are overwhelmingly opposed to criminalizing abortion, overturning Roe v. Wade, or making it harder to access the IVF treatment they need to start a family.
McConnell (D-Ky.) may think it’s worth putting his Senate majority at risk if it means gaining a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court. But like the proverbial dog that caught the car, Republicans should beware of the long-term consequences of a Supreme Court willing to repeal the Affordable Care Act and overturn Roe v. Wade.
Recent polling already indicates a surge in Democratic enthusiasm following the death of Justice Ginsburg, and a recent Reuters/Ipsos survey found that both independent and undecided voters favor keeping abortion legal by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. Barrett’s extreme views on reproduction and parenthood risk alienating those sought-after suburban voters Republicans desperately need to win back.
Barrett’s willingness to support an organization like St. Joseph Right to Life is, indeed, disqualifying. And the more Americans learn about Barrett’s views on these issues that are so fundamental to our human dignity and personal autonomy – the more concerned they will become about her fitness to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat.
Members of the U.S. Senate should do what’s right for the country – and their own political prospects -and reject this dangerous nomination to the nation’s highest court.
Julie Burkhart is the founder and CEO of Trust Women. Trust Women opens clinics in underserved communities and believes that all people should have access to reproductive health care no matter where they live or one’s ability to pay.