Harris raises alarm on abortion rights while grilling Barrett

Harris raises alarm on abortion rights while grilling Barrett
© Bonnie Cash

Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden officially clinches Electoral College votes with California certification Hillicon Valley: Senate Intelligence Committee leaders warn of Chinese threats to national security | Biden says China must play by 'international norms' | House Democrats use Markup app for leadership contest voting Trump campaigns as wild card in Georgia runoffs MORE (D-Calif.) told Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettGraham reports 'record-breaking' 9M haul during 2020 campaign The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Dem leaders back smaller COVID-19 relief bill as pandemic escalates Supreme Court sees new requests for religious COVID-19 carve-outs MORE Thursday that her nomination to the Supreme Court poses a serious threat to abortion rights, signaling that women’s reproductive freedom will emerge as a significant issue in the final weeks of the 2020 campaign.

“Anti-choice activists and politicians have been working for decades to pass laws and file lawsuits designed to overturn Roe and the precedents that followed. The threat to choice is real,” Harris said during her 30 minutes of question time at Barrett’s second day of confirmation hearings.

Harris, Joe BidenJoe BidenAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Federal student loan payment suspension extended another month Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week MORE’s vice presidential running mate, dinged Barrett for dodging questions about how she viewed the precedents set by Roe v. Wade in 1973 and Casey v. Planned Parenthood in 1992, which established and affirmed a woman’s right to an abortion.


She said the late Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgSupreme Court sees new requests for religious COVID-19 carve-outs Cuomo likens COVID-19 to the Grinch: 'The season of viral transmission' For Thanksgiving, the Supreme Court upholds religious liberty MORE, who was confirmed by the Senate in 1993, was “far more forthcoming” at her hearing “about the essential rights of women.”

“She testified that the decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her wellbeing and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself,” Harris said, recounting Ginsburg’s testimony.

Harris noted that Ginsburg asserted at the time that it was essential to women’s equality that she be the decision maker about whether to bring a pregnancy to term.

“She did freely discuss how she viewed a woman’s right to choose,” she said.

Harris argued that abortion rights are now under serious threat. She did not ask Barrett, who dodged questions about abortion rights for most of Tuesday’s hearing, any direct questions about her views on the topic.


She pointed to the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in June Medical Services v. Russo in June striking down a Louisiana law that required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

She noted that Chief Justice John Roberts, who was appointed by President George W. Bush to the court, joined four liberal justices, including Ginsburg, to uphold the protections established by Roe v. Wade.

Roberts agreed with the his liberal colleagues “that the court was bound by its own precedent to strike down the Louisiana law because it was virtually identical to a Texas law that the court ruled unconstitutional in 2016,” she said.

If Barrett, who expressed skepticism in a 2013 law journal article about whether Roe v. Wade was correctly decided, ruled with the court’s four conservative members in a similar case, it could give states more leeway to put restrictions on abortion, Harris argued.

“Justice Ginsburg provided the critical fifth vote to strike down the unconstitutional abortion restriction in June Medical Services. So we must be honest about the impact of her passing and the impact it will have on the court’s decisions in cases regarding women’s access to reproductive health care,” the senator added.

Republican senators such as Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGovernment used Patriot Act to gather website visitor logs in 2019 Grassley returns to Capitol after having coronavirus McConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge MORE (R-Utah) and Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstWaPo reporter says GOP has less incentive to go big on COVID-19 relief GOP chairman: Defense bill to include renaming Confederate bases, but not Section 230 repeal Iowa losses underscore Democrats' struggles with attracting rural voters MORE (R-Iowa) have argued that the threat to Roe v. Wade and the Supreme Court is unlikely to overturn it, but a substantial majority of the GOP conference has expressed support for expanding restrictions on abortions.

Thirty-nine Republican senators signed an amicus brief in January calling on the high court in the June Medical Services case to revisit Roe v. Wade, Harris noted.

“So let’s not make any mistake about it. Allowing President TrumpDonald John TrumpAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week Conservative policy director calls Section 230 repeal an 'existential threat' for tech MORE to determine who fills the seat of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a champion for women’s rights and a critical vote in so many decisions that have sustained the right to choose, poses a threat to safe and legal abortion in our country,” Harris said.

Harris pointed to an advertisement Barrett signed that was published in The South Bend Tribune that called for “an end to the barbaric legacy of Roe v. Wade” and another ad in 2013 that the nominee signed calling Roe “infamous.”

She also pointed to an article Barrett wrote in a 2013 law journal article in which the nominee excluded Roe v. Wade from a list of well-settled cases.