Republicans Are Using Amy Coney Barrett's Motherhood As a Shield

Republicans Are Using Amy Coney Barrett's Motherhood As a Shield
Image:Erin Schaff/The New York Times (Getty Images)

In her opening statement for her Senate confirmation hearing, Amy Coney Barrett plans on doubling down on her status as a mother and a wife, presenting a vision of conservative femininity that her supporters have seized upon to paint her as a woman of compassion. The message is clear—she’s no judicial radical, she’s just a regular mom and wife, dealing with the balancing of work and family life like so many of us.

Barrett, the mother of seven children, will quip, “I am used to being in a group of nine—my family.” She will say of her husband Jesse that she is “far luckier in love than I deserve,” and then she will spend several minutes focusing on her children, the vision of a proud mother. She will share how her father told her that “anything boys can do, girls can do better,” and name some of the other men in her life who have, far from holding her back, been her mentors, including former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. (Who needs feminism? Not Barrett.)

“When I write an opinion resolving a case, I read every word from the perspective of the losing party. I ask myself how would I view the decision if one of my children was the party I was ruling against,” she’ll say, adding, “That is the standard I set for myself in every case, and it is the standard I will follow as long as I am a judge on any court.”

That this is a calculated strategy became clear on Monday morning, with Republican Senators on the Judiciary Committee doubling down on Barrett’s status as a mother. Senator Chuck Grassley praised Barrett in his opening remarks as a “tireless mother of seven,” as did Senator Ted Cruz. Senator John Cornyn lifted Barrett up as a role model for young women, balancing work and motherhood. “How do you do it?” he asked. Senator Mike Lee, who tested positive for covid-19 and is perfectly willing to put the health of his colleagues at risk in order to ram this nomination through, marveled that not only was she one of seven children to her parents, she then had seven children of her own. It was a drumbeat—Barrett is humble, she is compassionate, she is generous, to the point she adopted two children.

But Barrett’s motherhood is merely a shield. Make no mistake, this mother of seven will happily take a shiv to some of our most basic rights.

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