The Corner

Law & the Courts

Barrett and That Pro-Life Ad

Judge Amy Coney Barrett looks on during a meeting with Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-SD) at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., September 29, 2020. (Greg Nash/Pool via Reuters)

Yesterday, I reported that in 2006, more than a decade before she became a judge, Amy Barrett signed a statement declaring herself among those citizens of Michiana, Ind., who “oppose abortion on demand and support the right to life from fertilization to natural death.”

Follow-up reporting today has led multiple news outlets to report, incorrectly, that Barrett signed not only that statement, but adjacent ad copy declaring Roe v. Wade “barbaric” and urging its overturning.

Two leaders of Right to Life Michiana tell me that the organization, and its precursor St. Joseph County Right to Life, have run variants of this ad for years, annually. The statement given to signatories is roughly the same each year. The other text in the ad changes more frequently, and in some years only the brief statement and the list of signatories runs.

Jackie Appleman, executive director of the organization, tells me that potential signatories are given a form with the brief statement. They do not approve or generally even see any text attached to the statement until the ad runs: “They only see the page where the signatures are. They never see that second page with the other educational ad.”

Tom Gill, the chairman of the group’s board, confirms this account. “Those signatures really are completely separate from the rest of the content of the ad. No one is ever aware of what’s going to be on the educational page.”

Does it matter whether Barrett only affirmed a right to life and opposed abortion on demand, or also explicitly endorsed opposition to Roe and the desire for its overturning? Those who strongly believe the Supreme Court should keep abortion from being democratically regulated will be alarmed enough by the statement. In the interest of accuracy, though, it should be noted that Barrett did not sign any statement of explicit opposition to Roe.

Hence my comment yesterday that her signature doesn’t tell us anything new. We already knew that Barrett is pro-life.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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