Amy Coney Barrett, nominated to the Trump administration’s supreme court, publicly supported an organization in 2006 that said life begins with fertilization. He also said that the discarding of unused or frozen embryos created in the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process should be criminalized, a view that is considered extreme even within the anti-abortion movement.
The revelation is likely to lead to new questions about how Barrett̵
In 2006, while working as a law professor at Notre Dame, Barrett was one of hundreds of people who signed a full-page advertisement in a newspaper sponsored by St Joseph County Right to Life, an extreme anti-choice group located in the southern city. Bend, which in the region is known as Michiana.
The announcement, which appeared in the South Bend Tribune, states: “We, the following citizens of Michiana, oppose abortion on demand and defend the right to life from fertilization to natural death. Please continue to pray for an end to abortion. “
The statement was signed by Barrett and her husband, Jesse.
In an interview with the Guardian, Jackie Appleman, the executive director of St Joseph County, Right to Life, said the organization’s view of life beginning at the time of fertilization – as opposed to the implantation of a viable embryo or fetus – has had implications for in vitro fertilization, which usually involves creating multiple embryos.
“Whether the embryos are implanted into the woman and then selectively reduced or done in a petri dish and then discarded, at that point you are still ending a new human life and we oppose it,” Appleman said, adding that the discarding of embryos during the in vitro fertilization process was the same as having an abortion.
Asked if abortion doctors should be criminalized, he said: “We support the criminalization of abortion doctors. At this point we are not in favor of criminalizing women. We would be in favor of criminalizing the discarding of frozen embryos or selective reduction through the in vitro fertilization process. “
Appleman said the organization’s view reflects a mission “to create a culture of life and love in which every child is protected by the law.”
White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said in a statement to the Guardian: “As Judge Barrett said on the day she was appointed, ‘A judge must enforce the law as written. Judges are not responsible for policies and must be steadfast in putting aside any political views they might hold. “
The White House also pointed out that in his role as court of appeals judge on the Seventh Circuit Barrett had refused in July to suspend the execution of Daniel Lewis Lee, a white supremacist convicted of murder. Barrett’s decision in that case apparently showed a willingness to contradict his personal support declared throughout his life from “fertilization to natural death”.
Barrett’s public embrace of a strict anti-choice stance will, however, fuel the concerns of progressives and pro-choice Americans about what the 48-year-old judge’s confirmation to the Supreme Court will mean for abortion rights once Conservatives have obtained a majority of 6-3 Tribunal.
For years, leading anti-abortion activists have avoided including discarded embryos created in the IVF process in their crusade to protect every embryo, in part because trying to cut down on IVF treatment would be very unpopular. In Alabama, which has passed an almost total ban on abortion, embryos created through in vitro fertilization are excluded from the law.
But the issue has gained resonance with some marginal groups who have tried to give fertilized eggs a “right to life” protected by the constitution.
Dov Fox, author of Birth Rights and Wrongs: How Medicine and Technology are Remaking Reproduction and the Law, said that if such a movement is ever successful, it may “have the potential to support restrictions on fertility treatment.”
“For example, by banning IVF procedures that would involve freezing, destroying or donating for research any embryo that a woman does not implant all at once, despite the health risks associated with high-level pregnancies and hormonal drugs needed to extract the eggs multiple times, “he said.
Supporters of the choice in South Bend described St Joseph County’s right to life as “extreme,” with a history of supporting “super intimidating” protests at the only facility in South Bend that provides abortion services.
The group was founded in 1972 and claimed its mission is to save “children, women and men from the devastating effects of abortion and euthanasia”. Although it runs a full-page ad every year to celebrate the passage of Roe v Wade, Barrett’s name hasn’t appeared in any other ad the Guardian has found since 2006.
On its website, Right to Life said it focuses on “awareness, advocacy, education and prayer” and said it recorded a “big win” in 2015 when it closed South Bend’s only abortion clinic there moment, “freeing our community from an abortion clinic for the first time in decades.” Three years later, a new clinic providing pill abortions – up to 10 weeks – was opened following a tough campaign of advocates of choice.
Right to Life said the opening of the “new abortion business”, a clinic called the Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, led to a “doubling of our efforts”. “We are closely monitoring these threats and executing a ferocious strategic plan to protect innocent human life at all ends of the spectrum.”
Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, said the South Bend clinic had “direct experience” with the Right to Life group, which among other anti-choice groups used the name and similarity of the clinic in Facebook’s campaigns to organize protests.
Clinics like Whole Woman’s Health Alliance face a number of barriers to treating patients in Indiana, Hagstrom Miller said, including rules that force patients who receive a nonsurgical abortion to make two visits to a clinic: including a mandatory ultrasound and consulting. The clinic only sees patients twice a week and during those days the clinic is inundated with more than 70 protesters a day, he said.