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WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - Judge Amy Coney Barrett faced probing questions about her personal beliefs in the afternoon session of Day 2 of Senate judicial confirmation hearings, even as Democrats tried to couch them in legal terms. She faced aggressive questioning by vice presidential contender Sen. Kamala Harris, as well as Sen. Richard Blumenthal, among others.
Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley began his time by immediately calling out the anti-Catholic attacks of Catholic Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy.
Leahy "questioned, criticized you for speaking to a legal group that has a summer program for law school students," said Hawley, referring to the Alliance Defending Freedom's (ADF) Blackstone Fellowship, a program for Christian law students.
In the morning session, Leahy had mentioned that ADF had sought to "criminalize homosexuality," and asked whether Barrett knew about this when she agreed to give lectures on originalism for the group. In recalling Leahy's questioning, Hawley asked Barrett to explain the circumstances of her decision to speak to ADF.
"I heard great things about it from [colleagues], and we had a contingent of students from Notre Dame regularly attend that program, and they were among the most engaged and smartest students, and I went and did it," she explained. "First time I did it, I really enjoyed it. The students were very, very engaged."
"I certainly didn't think there was anything wrong with my going to speak to a group of Christian law students about my expertise," she added.
Leahy had also mentioned a 2006 pro-life ad published in the South Bend Tribune which bore Barrett's name, among hundreds of others. The ad was placed by St. Joseph County Right to Life, and stated:
The Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion for any reason. Now, after more than thirty-two years under Roe more than 47 million unborn children have been aborted. The majority of those abortions were performed for social reasons. Yet poll after poll continues to show that an increasing majority of Americans are opposed to abortion as a method of birth control. ... It's time to put an end to the barbaric legacy of Roe v. Wade and restore laws that protect the lives of unborn children.
Since the ad was placed more than a decade ago, the number of abortions has risen to approximately 60 million.
The second page of the ad lists hundreds of names, including that of Barrett and her husband, under the text: "We, the following citizens ... oppose abortion on demand and defend the right to life from fertilization to natural death."
"You said you signed it on your way out of church," said Hawley during questioning.
"That was almost 15 years ago. At the back of church there was a table set up for people on their way out of Mass to sign a statement validating their commitment to the position of the Catholic Church on life issues," she said. "The statement that I signed, it was affirming the protection of life from conception to natural death."
"That is the position of the Catholic Church on abortion," she added, clarifying that she sees "as distinct" her personal, moral, religious views and her task of applying the law as a judge.
Connecticut Democrat Sen. Richard Blumenthal also questioned Barrett on her decision to sign the pro-life ad placed by St. Joseph County Right to Life, a group he accused of wanting to make in vitro fertilization "a crime."
"I'm not asking about what you signed. I'm asking about your present legal position," said Blumenthal. "Is making IVF a crime constitutional?"
"But you're quoting positions from the St. Joseph County Right to Life," she replied. "I'm not a member of that organization, and so I'm not responsible for the statements that they make."
After Blumenthal's renewed attempt to get an answer, Barrett responded, "I've repeatedly said, as has every nominee who has sat in this seat, that we can't answer questions in the abstract. That would have to be decided in the course of the judicial process. ... An off-the-cuff reaction to that would circumvent the judicial process."
Blumenthal was aggressive in his questioning on Roe v. Wade. Bringing up the case of "Samantha," who sought an abortion, he asked, "Does the Constitution protect Samantha's right to have an abortion?"
Barrett cited Supreme Court precedent in response: "Roe v. Wade clearly held that the Constitution protected a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy. Casey upheld that central holding and spelled out in greater detail the test that the Court uses to consider the legality of abortion regulations."
Blumenthal pressed further, asking whether Barrett would be willing to say that Roe was correctly decided.
"As I've said to others of your colleagues in response to questioning," she said, "that it's inconsistent with the duties of a sitting judge, and has been the practice of every nominee who has sat in this seat before me, to take positions on cases that the Court has decided on in the past."
Blumenthal asked what a 2013 pro-life ad to which she also added her name meant when it said, "We renew our call for the unborn to be protected in law and welcomed in life. What does it mean for the unborn to be protected in law?"
"I think that statement is an affirmation of life," said Barrett. "It points out that we express our love and support for the mothers who bear them. Again, it was a statement validing the position of the Catholic university at which I worked and support for life, and to support women in crisis pregnancies, to support babies."
"It's really no more than the expression of a pro-life view," she added.
Senator Kamala Harris was also forceful on the issue of abortion, asking few questions and choosing instead to launch into a litany of complaints about "anti-choice activists and politicians" for trying to pass legislation in an attempt to overturn Roe.
Citing the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose seat Barrett is being tapped to fill, Harris claimed that Ginsburg was far more "forthcoming" about the "essential rights of women."
"Judge Barrett, your record clearly shows you hold a different view," citing the 2006 and 2013 pro-life ads with Barrett's signature, along with other evidence of Barrett's pro-life beliefs.
"I would suggest that we not pretend that we don't know how this nominee views a woman's right to choose to make her own healthcare decisions," said Harris, ending her speech asking to be entered into the record letters by the NAACP and Planned Parenthood objecting to Barrett's confirmation.
.@SenJohnKennedy on oath Supreme Court justices take: "Senator Harris just called you a liar. She said that if you take that oath you'll be lying...Let's just cut to the chase. She said you're a liar. Are you liar?"— CSPAN (@cspan) October 13, 2020
Judge Amy Coney Barrett: "I am not a liar Senator Kennedy." pic.twitter.com/blhE7nVb6a
"Senator Harris just called you a liar," said Sen. John Kennedy, R.-La., referring to Barrett's oath as a judge to apply the law fairly and impartially. "She said that if you take that oath, you'd be lying — that you've already made up your mind on how you're going to vote on some cases, particularly dealing with abortion and the Affordable Care Act."
"Let's just cut to the chase," he added. "She called you a liar. Are you a liar?"
"I am not a liar, Sen. Kennedy," said Barrett.
"So when Sen. Harris and her colleagues say you're a liar, they're wrong," he said.
"They are," Barrett agreed.