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Barrett Hearing Turns to Discussion of Few High Court Cases

Supporters for Amy Coney Barrett
Supporters for the confirmation of President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, rally at the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Tuesday quickly turned to discussion of a few notable high court cases, including key decisions on abortion and gun rights.

Barrett was nominated by President Donald Trump to take the seat vacated by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Sept. 18. GOP senators are moving swiftly on the nomination because they want her on the bench in time for Election Day, Nov. 3.

Democrats are concerned about her conservative record and worry she will vote to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

Here is a look at the cases that were referenced repeatedly by both senators and Barrett. One of the cases is coming to the Supreme Court while others were decided years ago.


These cases from 1973 and 1992, respectively, are the two main decisions on abortion rights. Barrett is the most openly anti-abortion nominee to the Supreme Court in decades. She is certain to be asked repeatedly whether the cases were decided correctly, and whether they should be overturned, She’s not likely to answer either question. Barrett signed an anti-abortion newspaper ad in 2006, was a member of Notre Dame’s Faculty for Life and has cast two anti-abortion votes as an appellate judge.


This is the court’s seminal 2008 case that declared for the first time that the Constitution protects an individual’s right to have a gun, at least in the home for self defense. The case was decided by a 5-4 vote, with conservatives in the majority. Barrett’s mentor, Justice Antonin Scalia, wrote the majority opinion in which he acknowledged that the decision still left room for some gun regulations, including “longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

But in the intervening 12 years, the court has not elaborated on the extent of gun rights, including whether the Second Amendment includes the right to carry firearms in public or whether states can ban semiautomatic weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines. The justices have repeatedly refused to take up those issues. With Barrett on the court, there could be enough votes to deal with some of these issues.


The Supreme Court will hear this case on Nov. 10, a week after the election. It’s the third major challenge to the Affordable Care Act since its enactment in 2010.

The Supreme Court upheld key parts of the law in the two earlier cases. At issue now is whether Congress’ decision in 2017 to eliminate the penalty for not getting insurance renders that part of the law unconstitutional. That’s not a terribly important issue since the mandate to have insurance is now toothless. But if the court finds the mandate is unconstitutional, it next will consider whether the provision is so central to the law that the rest of it must fall as well. That would cause an enormous upheaval in American health care because other parts of the law include protections for people with preexisting conditions and measures to allow people under 26 to remain on their parents’ plans.

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AP, Justice & Poverty, News