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How the Supreme Court Nomination Could Impact Your Family Planning

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With the recent death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, there’s been a lot of talk about the nominee who could replace the newly open Supreme Court justice position, and whether the confirmation process can or should take place before the election. But it’s not just politics at stake—the Supreme Court appointment could impact Americans’ everyday lives, including access to healthcare and family planning.

The Trump administration’s pick for the Supreme Court justice role is the conservative-leaning Amy Coney Barrett. Since the Supreme Court is scheduled to consider a case in November about whether the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka Obamacare) is constitutional, Trump and many other Republicans are hoping that Barrett’s opinion on the bench could help bolster an anti-ACA decision.

What does this mean for family planning?

If the ACA is struck down, one key aspect of it that families have been relying on will be reversed as well—namely, the free access to birth control that has been included in the vast majority of health insurance plans under the ACA.

In fact, in 2012, Barrett signed a letter that opposed the ACA’s requirement for employer health insurance plans to cover contraception methods such as birth control pills, IUDs, and female sterilization procedures. The letter called the provision “morally obtuse” and a “grave infringement on religious liberty.”

The ACA requirement to cover approved forms of contraception for women has made family planning much more accessible to Americans. Without this policy, women would have reduced access to birth control pills (used by 12.6 percent of women in the U.S.), IUDs or contraceptive implants (used by 10.3 percent of women), and procedures such as tubal ligation (commonly known as “getting your tubes tied,” used by 18.6 percent of women).

Barrett has shown her stance against the ACA in the past, such as in 2017 when she wrote a law journal article criticizing the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the ACA. That’s why Barrett’s supporters (and detractors) believe that her appointment to the Supreme Court would be a step towards reversing the ACA—and its coverage requirements.

What about other reproductive rights?

Barrett is also known to strongly oppose the right to choose abortion. For example, in 2006 she signed an anti-abortion, pro-life ad in a local newspaper that stated, “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.” 

Opponents to the Barrett nomination are concerned that she will seek to reverse the historic Roe v. Wade ruling—which determined that pregnant women should be able to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction—when given the chance.

The role of Supreme Court justice is a lifelong appointment, making the issue of who will fill the vacant seat (and when) even more critical. Even if Barrett’s confirmation doesn’t happen before the end of the year, it could still go through if Trump ends up getting reelected. And based on Barrett’s past opinions and rulings, her appointment could have a tangible impact on families’ access to reproductive healthcare.


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Joanna Eng is a freelance writer and editor, Lambda Literary Fellow, and co-founder of Dandelions, a parenting and social justice newsletter. She lives with her wife and child in the New York City area, where she is constantly seeking out slivers of nature. You can find her on Twitter @joannamengland.