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Barrett signed ad in 2006 decrying ‘barbaric legacy’ of Roe v. Wade, advocating overturning the law

Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trumps nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, meets with Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020.
Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trumps nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, meets with Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020. (Greg Nash/AP)
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Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, added her name to a local newspaper advertisement in 2006 that decried the “barbaric legacy” of Roe v. Wade and advocated overturning the landmark decision that guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion.

The public declaration from Barrett drew criticism Thursday from a top Democrat who warned that Senate confirmation of the conservative judge to replace the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would threaten women’s reproductive rights.

Barrett, who met with 11 Republican senators and one Democrat at the Capitol on Thursday, is likely to face questions at her confirmation hearings this month about whether her personal beliefs will influence her legal rulings.

The White House, while not commenting directly on the ad, said Thursday that the president would never ask a judge to prejudge a case. Trump, who tapped Barrett on Saturday to replace Ginsburg, is pressing the Senate to confirm the nominee before the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Barrett was a law professor at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., when she attached her name to the ad placed by the St. Joseph County Right to Life group, of which Barrett and her husband, both Catholic, were members.

“We, the following citizens of Michiana, oppose abortion on demand and defend the right to life from fertilization to the end of natural life,” read the ad in the South Bend Tribune. “Please continue to pray to end abortion.”

The two-page ad ran on the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

“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,” the ad said.

Barrett did not disclose that she had signed the ad to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which asks nominees to list any “published material you have written or edited, including material published only on the Internet, regardless of whether it was published in your name, another name or anonymously.”

The existence of the ad was first reported by the Guardian.

A Democratic aide with knowledge of the process said the ad should have been included in her questionnaire that she submitted to the committee Tuesday. The aide spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss the process.

Taylor Reidy, a spokeswoman for Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), pushed back on whether it was a necessary disclosure. “It is not responsive to any of the questions in the Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire,” she said.

Supreme Court vacancy spotlights Roe v. Wade

During Tuesday night’s presidential debate, Trump denied that abortion rights were on the ballot this November, and claimed not to know Barrett’s view on the issue, even though he has previously assured conservatives that he would nominate justices who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, responding to a question about this discrepancy, said Thursday: “The president has been clear that he would never ask a judge to prejudge a case.”

“Judge Amy Coney Barrett has on multiple occasions said it is never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions, whether they derive from faith or anywhere else, on the law,” McEnany said.

The beliefs of the St. Joseph County Right to Life members go further than some antiabortion groups. In their view, discarding unused embryos from in vitro fertilization was akin to abortion.

Jackie Appleman, the executive director of St Joseph County Right to Life, told the Guardian that the group not only supports the criminalization of doctors who perform abortions, but also making it illegal to throw away frozen embryos.

While it’s unclear if Barrett holds these same views, her opposition to abortion is well documented in her writings and speeches in academia. As a Notre Dame professor, she was a member of Faculty for Life, which promotes writings that “respect the value of human life from conception to natural death.”

Since becoming a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, she has joined some opinions that took the antiabortion position, including one in which she supported the rehearing of a case that overturned an Indiana law requiring anyone under 18 to notify their parents before getting an abortion.

Abortion rights advocates also point to writings by Barrett in which she suggests an openness to overturning Roe.

“If anything, the public response to controversial cases like Roe reflects public rejection of the proposition that stare decisis can declare a permanent victor in a divisive constitutional struggle rather than desire that precedent remain forever unchanging,” Barrett wrote, referring to the legal doctrine that courts follow historical precedent.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Barrett has been an “outspoken critic of a woman’s right to choose,” and warned that she would undermine abortion rights.

“She has said as a judge she would ignore precedent if it conflicted with her interpretation of the Constitution,” Feinstein said. “Those statements, coupled with her record on the 7th Circuit, raise serious concerns about whether she would uphold the law.”

Barrett has met exclusively with Republicans this week with one exception, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III, an antiabortion Democrat who quietly met with the nominee Thursday though he says the Senate should not vote to fill the vacancy before the election.

About two-thirds of Americans support keeping Roe v. Wade in place while 29 percent favor overturning it, according to a CBS News poll published in June. Democrats — and, by a large margin, women — are more likely than Republicans and men to say abortion is an important factor in their 2020 vote for president, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Amy Coney Barrett’s response to Senate questionnaire

Embracing the complete reversal of Roe v. Wade is politically difficult, even for some antiabortion Republicans, given the wide public support for the 50-year-old decision.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who is in a tough reelection battle, said during a recent debate, “I think the likelihood of Roe v. Wade being overturned is very minimal. I don’t see that happening.”

But even if the justices don’t address Roe directly, abortion rights advocates warn that the Supreme Court may take up pending cases that wouldn’t directly challenge the constitutionality of Roe but could impose restrictions on abortions that would limit access for many women.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who has said his support for a Supreme Court justice is contingent on their belief that Roe was “wrongly decided,” met with Barrett on Thursday, but skirted questions about whether they discussed Roe.

“I think she’s been very clear, I think, on her views on Roe,” Hawley said. “How she will vote in the future on Roe, I don’t know. I don’t know how it will come up for her. I can’t ask her that.”

Asked whether, when she testifies under oath, he would seek assurance that she believes the case was wrongly decided, Hawley said he had wanted to “see record evidence before the nomination. And we have that.”

Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.