Story at a glance

  • Senator Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who is in the middle of a very tight reelection race, recently shared the traumatic personal story of his first wife’s abortion.
  • Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg also came forward sharing fears associated with his marriage to husband Chasten.
  • Pro-life activist Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood manager, hails Barrett's nomination, saying, "This is the moment that the pro-life movement and those who hold all life to be dear and treasured have been waiting for."

The nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court to fill the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat by President Trump has brought up a lot of emotions and revelations on both sides of the aisle.

Roe v. Wade

Last week, U.S. Senator Gary Peters did something no other sitting senator has done before him: open up about a personal experience with abortion. In an interview with Elle magazine published on Monday, Peters talks about how his first wife, Heidi, was initially denied an abortion in the late 1980s despite the fact that her life was at risk.

Peters, a low-key, moderate Democrat from Michigan, became the unlikely spokesperson for the pro-choice movement when he spoke candidly about his family’s personal experience with abortion — a “gut-wrenching” story that detailed how Heidi, only four months pregnant at the time, had her water break, leaving the fetus without amniotic fluid or chance of survival. The couple’s doctor, who worked at a hospital with an anti-abortion policy, informed them that they must wait for a natural miscarriage.

“The mental anguish someone goes through is intense, trying to have a miscarriage for a child that was wanted,” Peters told Elle.⁠

After three days, Heidi’s health had deteriorated and she was at risk of losing her uterus or dying from sepsis, but when their doctor had appealed to the hospital’s board for an exception to its anti-abortion policy they were denied — putting her life on the line.

“I still vividly remember he left a message on the answering machine saying, ‘They refused to give me permission, not based on good medical practice, simply based on politics. I recommend you immediately find another physician who can do this procedure quickly,’” Peters said.⁠

While Heidi was ultimately able to receive an emergency abortion at another hospital, she has described the ordeal as “painful” and “traumatic, and Peters ultimately made the decision to share their personal story with the nation in response to President Trump’s controversial nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Barrett has been under question by Democrats because of a record that indicates her opposition to a woman’s right to an abortion — Barrett previously signed a 2006 newspaper ad which called for the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which established that access to an abortion is a constitutional right. ⁠

“It’s important for folks who are willing to tell these stories to tell them, especially now,” Peters said. “The new Supreme Court nominee could make a decision that will have major ramifications for reproductive health for women for decades to come.”

When questioned on her views of Roe v. Wade, Barrett has not given any explicit answers, saying “I completely understand why you are asking the question, but I cannot pre-commit or say yes, I am going in with some agenda, because I am not,” Barrett responded when Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked her whether she considered Roe wrongly decided.

In response to Barrett's nomination, Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood manager-turned pro-life activist, said, "This is the moment that the pro-life movement and those who hold all life to be dear and treasured have been waiting for. This is the fight we are more than prepared to win. And this is a movement led in large part by strong, faithful women, just like Amy Coney Barrett, who have fought hard to get to where they are now. It’s our time.”

Kat Cammack, who is running for Congress in Florida's 3rd district, recently uploaded an emotional video in support of her pro-life beliefs. 

“When my mom was pregnant with me the doctors told her, because she had a stroke with my sister, that she wouldn’t be able to have children again," Cammack says in the video. “So when she found out she was pregnant, the doctors advised her to abort me.”

“When given the choice, my mom chose life. And that’s why I’m pro-life.”

Another recent public supporter of pro-life viewpoints is Kanye West, who said, "No more Plan B. Plan A," about the emergency contraceptive. 

"Even if my wife wants to divorce me after this speech, she brought North into the world even when I didn’t want to," West said. "She stood up and she protected that child. You know who else protected a child? Forty-three years ago, who do you think protected a child?

"My mom saved my life. My dad wanted to abort me. My mom saved my life, there would have been no Kanye West because my dad was too busy," he said.


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Obergefell v. Hodges

Also sharing their personal concerns with Barrett’s nomination this past week was Pete Buttigieg, a former challenger for the Democratic presidential nomination. Speaking on Fox News this Sunday, Buttigieg, who married his husband Chasten in 2018, said that Barrett’s nomination could put the validity of his marriage in jeopardy.

“Right now as we speak the pre-existing condition [health care] coverage of millions of Americans might depend on what is about to happen in the Senate with regard to this justice,” said Buttigieg. “My marriage might depend on what is about to happen in the Senate with regard to this justice. So many issues are on the line.”

The right to same-sex marriage was enshrined in the case of Obergefell v Hodges, the culmination of a yearslong fight incorporating challenges from several states and decided by the landmark 5-4 ruling. Though Barrett has brushed aside concerns that Obergefell would be overturned, arguing that it would be unlikely that a case involving gay marriage would reach the Supreme Court because it would be struck down in a lower district court decision, her comments do not indicate that she would favor the decision to be upheld should it reach the highest court. 

Buttigieg also shared his concerns about rushing a vote on a Supreme Court nominee in the days leading up to a historic election and with the COVID-19 pandemic still raging in the background.

“There’s an enormous amount of frustration that this Senate can’t even bring itself, with Mitch McConnell, to vote through a Covid relief package. People are suffering, people are hurting, there’s no clear end in sight,” said Buttigieg. He added, “Whatever specific word you use for it, wrong is the word I would use.”

Amy Coney Barrett and Ruth Bader Ginsburg 

Barrett has her share of supporters, too, especially from conservative women — many of whom have called the judge's professional success inspiring. 

“I found some personal inspiration in Ginsburg — you couldn’t not,” conservative Catholic lawyer Mary Hallan FioRito recently told The New York Times, referring of course to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose seat on the Supreme Court bench Barrett seeks to fill. “She made me know this is possible. It won’t be easy, but it’s possible. Amy Barrett is the perfect replacement for Ginsburg because she, too, in a different way, is saying, ‘This is possible.’”

A recent opinion piece published in Politico by Erika Bachiochi of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the Abigail Adams Institute goes even further in its comparison of the two judges, praising Barrett as a "new feminist icon," and someone who brings to the table the kind of feminism "that builds upon the praiseworthy antidiscrimination work of Ginsburg but then goes further. It insists not just on the equal rights of men and women, but also on their common responsibilities, particularly in the realm of family life."

Barrett herself has also praised the accomplishments of her possible predecessor. “Should I be confirmed, I will be mindful of who came before me," said Barrett. "Justice Ginsburg began her career at a time when women were not welcome in the legal profession. But she not only broke glass ceilings, she smashed them. For that, she has won the admiration of women across the country and, indeed, all over the world,” Judge Barrett said. “She was a woman of enormous talent and consequence, and her life of public service serves as an example to us all.” 

To those who object to Barrett replacing Ginsburg there is a historical irony. Ginsburg herself replaced Justice Byron White, who was one of two dissenting votes on Roe V. Wade.


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Published on Oct 19, 2020