06:45, October 27 129 0 theguardian.com

2020-10-27 06:45:03
Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment is a wake-up call for female voters

The pandemic and its collateral economic crisis have illustrated like never before that women are the backbone of America. Before Covid-19, women made up more than half the workforce, nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage workers, and the majority of caregivers. One in three jobs held by women has been designated as essential. Right now, millions of women are pulling off an impossible balancing act: working while trying to keep their families safe and healthy during a terrifying time. Others have lost jobs, have had their wages or hours cut, and more than 800,000 women have left the workforce.

This crisis is disproportionately burdening women, especially women of color. They need immediate relief, but instead of solving this crisis, Donald Trump and Senate Republicans have focused on one thing: pushing through a supreme court nominee who wants to take away healthcare for millions and strip away rights women have had for decades. And they’re doing it against the will of the majority of Americans, who believe that voters should decide who makes the next appointment to the court.

When Trump announced Amy Coney Barrett as his pick, Republicans rushed to portray her as a worthy successor to justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a lifelong champion of women’s rights and democracy. They pointed to Barrett’s “woman” credentials: namely, that she’s a mother of seven. Women across the country, however, know what’s at stake. On the campaign trail, then-candidate Trump promised to appoint justices who would overturn Roe v Wade. Throughout her confirmation hearings, Barrett refused to say whether she would uphold access to safe abortion, birth control, or fertility treatment. When it comes to the future of reproductive rights, her silence speaks volumes.

It’s not only Roe v Wade that’s on the line under a Barrett court. Paid leave, affordable childcare, equal pay, voting rights, racial justice, and LGBTQ+ equality are in jeopardy. And with arguments on the Affordable Care Act slated for 10 November, Barrett may have the chance to repeal critical health care protections in the middle of a pandemic. At a time when we’ve just passed the grim threshold of 8 million Americans infected with Covid-19 and more than 225,000 dead, making it harder to get healthcare is the last thing we should be doing.

It’s outrageous that an impeached president who lost the popular vote can install a supreme court justice who would gut the Affordable Care Act despite majority support for the law – a law that made it so that women can no longer be charged more for health coverage because of our gender, or denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition such as breast cancer. It’s equally outrageous to see Republican senators prioritizing this bad-faith confirmation process despite their failure to pass a desperately-needed coronavirus relief bill. But none of this is surprising. Barrett’s nomination is part of a broader effort by the extreme right to allow minority views to rule over the will of the majority of Americans – in this case, women.

Women have been the majority of voters in every national election since 1964, and we represent the majority of mail-in ballots and early votes heading into November. Over the last four years, we have shown our political force by marching for women’s rights and Black lives, volunteering for causes, and donating to campaigns. We are a supermajority, and we should have the undivided attention of every elected official in this country. But we don’t, and that’s because deliberate efforts to undermine our democracy have created a system that’s less and less responsive to the needs of the people, especially women.

Make no mistake: the tidal wave of female voters and the record number of women elected to Congress in 2018 have been possible not thanks to our political system, but despite it. Supreme court decisions to allow unlimited corporate money in elections, gut the Voting Rights Act, and refuse to address partisan gerrymandering all make it harder for women, especially women of color, to run for office, let alone vote. Barrett, who has proudly touted herself as an “originalist” in the mold of Antonin Scalia, will cement a court that’s even more hostile to our democracy.

If Joe Biden wins this November, he should prioritize reforms that will make our democracy fairer and more accountable to the will of the people, including women. That starts with depoliticizing the court, strengthening voting rights, and reducing the influence of money in politics.

A single supreme court justice confirmed by a group of Senators acting against our wishes shouldn’t have this much power. We, the people – and we, the supermajority of women – should determine the direction of the country. And the best way to do that is for those of us who believe in reproductive freedom, affordable health care, LGBTQ+ rights, and voting rights to show up in droves for this election. We should vote like our lives depend on it, because they do.

  • Cecile Richards is the co-founder of Supermajority and the former head of Planned Parenthood

  • Legendary Watergate reporter Bob Woodward will discuss the Trump presidency at a Guardian Live online event on Tuesday 27 October, 7pm GMT. Book tickets here