WASHINGTON, D.C.—As Senate Judiciary Committee hearings to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court near, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) reiterates it is completely unacceptable that Senate leadership and the White House are fast-tracking this process. We insist the seat left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg be left unfilled until after Inauguration Day on January 20, 2021.
Instead, the Senate leadership should focus its attention on prioritizing legislative responses to the many immediate challenges now confronting our nation. These include the devastating impact of the COVID-19 public health crisis, the national angst over racial injustice triggered by police brutality and violence, and the need to protect our democracy from continued voter suppression actions such as the U.S. Postal Service slowing mail delivery of ballots. During a time when more than 200,000 Americans have lost their lives to COVID-19 and millions of other Americans are in the need of health care and other supports, it is shameful that the Senate has chosen to minimize human suffering.
It is deeply troubling that in the midst of a pandemic that confirming Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court will assuredly endanger health care access and the fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – which has previously been upheld by a narrow 5-4 moderate majority. Judge Barrett is already on record as being skeptical about the constitutionality of the ACA. The court will hear oral arguments regarding the ACA when it considers California v. Texas – the legal challenge to the ACA – on November 10. There is a high likelihood that the ACA will not survive if Judge Barrett is appointed.
The ACA has provided critical and essential health care protections to millions of people since its passage in 2010. This includes health care coverage for an estimated 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions (seven million of whom have tested positive for COVID-19). In addition, if the Court declares the ACA unconstitutional, this will exacerbate the existing health disparities in communities of color and among people with disabilities. The elimination of this landmark legislation would result in a 20 percent increase in the number of uninsured Black people; loss of coverage for an estimated 5.4 million Latinos, 2 million Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders and 300,000 Native Americans; and a 42 percent increase in the uninsured rate for people with disabilities.
However, this legal challenge to the ACA is not the only major case on the Court’s 2020-21 docket that has human rights implications. The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the LGBTQ foster parenting discrimination and adoption case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. This case considers claims of religious freedom by faith-based business owners and government contractors to refuse services to LBGTQ people. Judge Barrett’s judicial record and writings demonstrate her unreceptivity to LGBTQ rights; if she is appointed, the Court will likely uphold the ability of private adoption agencies to discriminate against members of the LQBTQ community on the grounds of religious freedom.
Lastly, for many years, those opposed to women’s abortion rights have been unrelenting in their quest to have a Supreme Court made up of a majority of anti-choice Justices. Their target has always been to overturn Roe v. Wade. An appointment of Judge Barrett to the bench paves the way for an era in which some states would be free to completely ban abortion access and endanger the safety of those who would still seek abortions.
NASW continues to fully engage with the national #Ourcourts Coalition to mobilize against the ill-advised and disingenuous process by the Senate Majority to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat. This is an uphill battle, but it is a battle that must be fought. Literally millions of lives are at stake.
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.