Renee Gasch, a young mother in De Pere, Wisconsin, who receives daily treatments for her thyroid cancer, is worried about what will happen to her and her family if the Affordable Care Act is overturned.
“When you’re living with cancer, toxic stress is your enemy,” Gasch said during a virtual press conference with Attorney General Josh Kaul organized by Protect Our Care Wisconsin. “And there’s nothing more stressful than thinking about the Supreme Court overturning protections for people with pre-existing conditions.”
“Before I was just worried about dying,” she added. “Now I’m afraid I’m going to bankrupt my family first.”
Protect Our Care organized the press call to discuss what’s at stake for Wisconsinites as Republicans rush to fill a Supreme Court vacancy with a nominee who has repeatedly stated her opposition to the ACA.
Ramming through Trump nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation “will lead to harmful health consequences for people in Wisconsin and across the country,” Kaul said, pointing to the 20 million Americans who are covered by the ACA.
Barrett would join the court just in time to hear oral arguments on Nov. 10 in California v. Texas, the lawsuit led by the Trump administration and 18 Republican state attorneys general to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. If they succeed, 224,000 Wisconsinites could lose access to health care and more than 2.4 million Wisconsinites with pre-existing conditions could lose vital protections, according to the Center for American Progress.
And make no mistake, despite Barrett’s evasive answers on the ACA (and nearly every other topic), she is on the record opposing Obamacare.
In a 2017 law review article, Barrett questioned the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act and sided with Justice Antonin Scalia in his dissent from Chief Justice John Roberts and the majority in a 2012 decision arguing that the ACA’s individual mandate is a constitutional tax.
As Emergency Room physician Chris Kapsner pointed out, one in five Wisconsinites who have pre-existing conditions are at risk if the ACA is overturned.
“As an ER doctor, I know everyone needs health care,” Kapsner said during the press conference. “And the Affordable Care Act was a big step in the right direction to giving people access to world class healthcare. For the last 10 years, over 10 years, we’ve heard repeal and replace, and instead of making the Affordable Care Act better, they just want to tear it apart, and there is nothing to replace it with.”
The irony here is that Barrett is a darling of the the right because of her “pro-life” views. As Judiciary Commitee Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham put it: “This is the first time in American history that we’ve nominated a woman who is unashamedly pro-life and embraces her faith without apology, and she is going to the court.”
Yet, as Renee Gasch pointed out, “what hurts … is that this Supreme Court nomination is being done in the name of the pro-life movement. But it doesn’t really feel like they’re that concerned about my life or my family’s life.”
Beyond overturning the Affordable Care Act — an unpopular cause Republicans know is a loser with voters, so they are now seeking to force it through the courts — Barrett also represents the Trump administration’s complete contempt for the lives and health of the American people during the pandemic. Celebrating her nomination at a mask-free event that appears to have accelerated the explosion of COVID-19 infections at the White House, Barrett, who has had COVID-19 herself, failed to observe basic social distancing practices. Now she is sitting through in-person confirmation hearings led by committee chairman Graham who has refused to be tested despite meeting with other Republicans who have tested positives, and who is calling on his own staff and colleagues to be in the committee room to push through her nomination despite the risk.
This lack of concern for life will forever taint Barrett’s nomination.
During the hearings, Barrett pleased her Republican backers with her calm, professional demeanor. They were (patronizingly) fascinated by how she juggles work and family. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), called her a “legal titan who drives a minivan.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) gushed over her “wonderfully well-behaved children” and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) marveled at how she and her husband, as full-time professionals, “take care of your large family.”
All of this might be charming, were it not for that fact that so much is at stake for millions of other women, for whom Barrett’s confirmation will be an unmitigated disaster.
For, despite her many evasive answers, as Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) deftly pointed out, there is no mystery about where Barrett stands on health care or women’s fundamental reproductive rights.
Not only is Barrett an outspoken proponent of overturning Roe v. Wade, she joined a dissent when she sat on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals when the court refused to hear an appeal on then-Gov. Mike Pence’s crazy law mandating that women who had abortions or miscarriages be forced to hold funerals for their fetuses.
This is not just conservatism. It is an embrace of paternalistic government control over women’s most intimate lives.
At her Senate confirmation hearing, Barrett has done her job, maintaining her disciplined refusal to answer even the most basic questions, including whether a president should commit to a peaceful transfer of power, whether she would recuse herself from a case involving the election — which Trump has explicitly mentioned as a reason to rush through her nomination — and whether it is illegal for gun-toting “election observers” to intimidate voters at the polls.
That last question, put to Barrett by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), elicited a mealy-mouthed response from Barrett about not prejudging cases that might come before her. Klobuchar followed up by reading the actual text of the federal law. There is no ambiguity. It is a crime to intimidate voters. The least we can expect of a Supreme Court justice is to acknowledge that.
Under questioning from Harris, Trump’s nominee said, incredibly, that she had no idea that Trump has said he wanted to nominate a justice who would overturn the ACA.
Her refusal to say she would recuse herself from an election-related decision left little doubt that she would be willing to play a role in helping Trump undermine voting results in November if they don’t go his way.
This administration has done more to destroy faith in government in a shorter period of time than any administration in history. If Barrett lands on the Court after a rushed process in which she refused to commit to the most basic protections of Americans’ health, safety, and democracy she will be part of the historic undermining of the integrity of our public institutions.