Comment Writer Rubika Latif discusses Trump’s recent nomination of Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court after Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s recent passing, arguing that the appointment of Barrett could be disastrous for those who rely on the Affordable Care Act

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Following the passing of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on 18 September, President Trump formally announced his nomination for the US Supreme Court. Amy Coney Barrett, a judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, will become a part of a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court if confirmed by the Republican Senate. As the youngest potential justice at just 48 years old, she would dramatically shift the legal landscape in favour of a right-wing ideology for future landmark decisions. I believe her nomination and its likely impact on healthcare policies could raise concerns for millions of Americans, especially due to the increased difficulties brought about by the global pandemic. 

When I researched further into Barrett’s beliefs, specifically her opinions surrounding the Affordable Care Act 2010 , I discovered that she had previously criticised Chief Justice John Roberts’ 2012 majority decision to uphold the Act, in her Notre Dame University Law Review article (2017). At a time when COVID-19 has put millions of American households under increasing pressure to access healthcare, Barrett’s conservative views may hinder the progress made under Ginsburg. Ginsburg persistently protected the Affordable Care Act (ACA) during her career, repeatedly utilising her constitutional powers to improve citizens’ health. However, Trump’s new nominee is likely to reject these provisions.

Barrett’s conservative views may hinder the progress made under Ginsburg

The heavily disputed healthcare policy has likely been a lifeline for many African Americans, who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 both economically and in terms of their health outcomes. The information provided by the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explores these systemic disparities and highlights that ‘people from some racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to be uninsured than non-Hispanic whites,’ thereby reinforcing my belief that Barrett’s potential desire to undermine the ACA may have long-term implications for those who are already reluctant to seek care. This conservative desire to repeal the ACA and its expansion of Medicaid will have serious repercussions as disadvantaged communities only increasing their distrust of those trying to reform healthcare during the pandemic.

If Barrett is formally confirmed and pushes forward with her conservative stance against the ACA, during the upcoming oral arguments for the California V. Texas case on 10 November, it will massively benefit the Trump administration, who promised to ‘repeal and replace’ the ACA in their 2016 election manifesto. An article by The New York Times emphasises the harsh reality claiming around 21 million could lose health insurance if the Republicans succeed in having the law ruled unconstitutional. This will have disastrous results for those already struggling economically, thereby reinforcing how Barrett’s nomination and possible confirmation will have widespread consequences throughout America. 

Inevitably, Barrett’s nomination has been widely criticised by campaigners, such as Meagan Hatcher-Mays, director of democracy policy at Indivisible, who states that ‘the idea that Amy Coney Barrett could replace RBG on the supreme court is an insult to RBG’s life and legacy.’ I think that with the election so close, Americans should have been allowed to democratically elect their own representatives for the Senate, who would ultimately have an input during the confirmation hearing for the nominee. As the Senate is majority Republican and shares similar views on healthcare, there is no doubt that Barrett will be promptly confirmed for this lifelong job, although she will be faced with difficult questions about her potential approach to the ACA from Democratic Senators. 

Barrett’s nomination has been widely criticised by campaigners

Although, Barrett is a respected academic and a long-term appeals court judge, her originalist beliefs that judges should interpret the words of the Constitution as the authors intended at the time of writing, should be scrutinised. This is mainly because there must be flexibility to adapt with the times, especially due to the newer challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has created. If Barrett was to resume her strict approach, her decisions would greatly disadvantage the tens of millions of Americans that rely on the ACA for their health insurance.

Since Ginsburg’s dying wish for her not to be replaced before the election did not materialise, it further consolidates my belief that Barrett’s nomination may have been a way for President Trump to cement the influence of the conservative ideology, within the federal judiciary. This is because he may lose power in the executive, following the election. Ultimately, America, the ‘land of the free,’ may have to bear the restrictive measures on healthcare and other prominent social issues, as Barrett sets out on her journey as a justice. 

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