Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

Phony Brouhaha over Barrett Endorsement of Right-to-Life Statement

In 2006, Amy Barrett was one of hundreds of individuals who authorized their names to be appended to an open statement to the public that read: “We, the following citizens of Michiana, oppose abortion on demand and defend the right to life from fertilization to natural death.” The statement with signatures occupied one page of a two-page newspaper insert that St. Joseph County Right to Life sponsored. On the second page, the organization set forth its own criticism of Roe v. Wade, including the statement that “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.”

Some folks on the Left are trying to concoct a brouhaha over this, but their effort is silly:

1. Barrett’s signature attached only to the single sentence that appears above it and the other signatures. No fairminded reader would imagine that the signatories reviewed and endorsed the text that appears on a separate page. (Based on his conversations with the pro-life group, Ramesh Ponnuru provides details that further prove that the statements on the second page cannot be imputed to Barrett.)

2. There is nothing new here. The fact that Barrett is pro-life is no secret. (So far as I’m aware, there is nothing in her record that speaks specifically to her view of Roe, much less to whether it should be overturned.)

Barrett’s Senate questionnaire response now, as for her Seventh Circuit nomination in 2017, identifies her as a former member of University Faculty for Life. As a law professor, she signed a letter in 2015 from Catholic women to Catholic bishops that stated:

We give witness that the Church’s teachings—on the dignity of the human person and the value of human life from conception to natural death; on the meaning of human sexuality, the significance of sexual difference and the complementarity of men and women; on openness to life and the gift of motherhood; and on marriage and family founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman—provide a sure guide to the Christian life, promote women’s flourishing, and serve to protect the poor and most vulnerable among us.

(The letter, I’ll note, was organized by my EPPC colleague Mary Hasson.)

Opponents of her nomination to the Seventh Circuit already used these pieces of information and others against her. That help explains why Senator Dianne Feinstein infamously exclaimed: “The dogma lives loudly within you.”

3. Some are now claiming that Barrett should have identified the 2006 statement in her Senate questionnaire response. But that statement, like the 2015 letter from Catholic women, is not responsive to any of the questions in the Senate questionnaire.

Question 12.a reads: “List the titles, publishers, and dates of books, articles, reports, letters to the editor, or other published material you have written or edited….” Barrett did not write or edit the statement above her name (or any other part of the insert).

Question 12.b calls for “any reports, memoranda, policy statements, minutes, agendas, legal filings, or other materials you prepared or contributed in the preparation of on behalf of any bar association, committee, conference, or organization of which you were or are a member or in which you have participated….” The statement is obviously not responsive to this request.

Question 12.c calls for “any testimony, official statements or other communications relating, in whole or in part, to matters of public policy or legal interpretation, that you have issued or provided or that others presented on your behalf to public bodies or public officials.” The open statement in a newspaper insert is not a “communication[] … issued or provided … to public bodies or public officials.”

Question 12.d calls for various “speeches or talks” and obviously doesn’t apply.

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