President Trump promised to name Supreme Court justices who would oppose abortion rights. Activists say Barrett fits that mold. Her history as a federal judge offers potential clues to her views.



President Trump has made no secret of his intentions regarding the U.S. Supreme Court and abortion rights. Here he is during a presidential debate in 2016, vowing to appoint justices who would vote to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which legalized abortion nationwide.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And that'll happen automatically, in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court. I will say this. It will go back to the states, and the states will then make a determination.

CHANG: Nominees for judicial appointments tend to be a bit more reserved when speaking about their views on reproductive rights. NPR's Sarah McCammon has this look at Judge Amy Coney Barrett's record.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: During her Senate confirmation hearings for her seat on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017, Amy Coney Barrett was asked about her views on Roe v. Wade, and she gave a version of what's become a pretty standard answer to that question for people in her position.


AMY CONEY BARRETT: Well, senator, it's not that I wouldn't have personal beliefs. I'm sure that every nominee before you has beliefs about that precedent and many other. But all nominees are united in their belief that what they think about a precedent should not bear on how they would decide cases.

MCCAMMON: Barrett has written and spoken about the issue before, as in this appearance at a university in Florida shortly before the 2016 election while a law professor at Notre Dame. She was asked about ways a future Supreme Court might allow states to pass more restrictions on abortion.


BARRETT: I don't think the core case, Roe's core holding that, you know, women have a right to an abortion - I don't think that would change. But I think the question of whether people can get very late-term abortions, you know, how many restrictions can be put on clinics - I think that would change.

MCCAMMON: Barrett's record as a federal appeals court judge offers some potential clues to her views. In two cases where a lower court ruled to block Indiana laws putting limitations on abortion, Barrett voted to hear arguments that could have potentially overruled the lower court. But in a third case involving buffer zones designed to protect abortion patients from protesters, Barrett voted to uphold precedent allowing for those zones. Barrett's colleague Notre Dame law professor Carter Snead says it's difficult to predict exactly how Barrett would rule on abortion-related cases before the Supreme Court.

CARTER SNEAD: I get from Judge Barrett someone who understands the complexity of the question that's going to come before the court and who understands the stakes both in terms of stability as well as faithfulness to the rule of law and is going to be very thoughtful about how she proceeds.

MCCAMMON: Katie Watson, an attorney and bioethicist at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, says there's only so much you can read into Barrett's past judicial record. But you don't really have to.

KATIE WATSON: I think the best evidence of her position on Roe v. Wade is that President Trump has said he will only appoint justices who are committed to reversing Roe, and there's no reason not to believe him.

MCCAMMON: On that question, activists on both sides of the abortion debate also seem to believe Trump. Barrett is receiving widespread praise from anti-abortion rights groups and opposition from advocates for abortion rights. According to recent polling, most Americans support Roe. Reversing it would set up intense fights in state legislatures and, legal observers say, create an even more patchwork system where access to abortion hinges almost entirely on where you live.

Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Washington.