Amy Coney Barrett’s Adoption Myths “They’re co-opting our lives and our stories.”

wice in oral arguments this week for the abortion case that could overturn Roe v. Wade, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked pro-choice advocates: Would banning abortion be so bad if women could just drop their newborns at the fire station for someone else to adopt? She conceded that forced pregnancy and birth are “an infringement on bodily autonomy,” but suggested, misleadingly, that the real choice is between having a later abortion and “the state requiring the woman to go 15, 16 weeks more and then terminate parental rights at the conclusion.” If advocates for abortion rights were so worried that “the consequences of parenting and the obligations of motherhood that flow from pregnancy” would harm women, asked Barrett, who adopted two children from Haiti, “Why don’t the safe-haven laws take care of that problem?”

The attorney for the clinics, Julie Rikelman, reminded Barrett that it’s 75 times more dangerous to give birth in Mississippi than to have a pre-viability abortion, disproportionately threatening the lives of women of color in particular. U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar said citing laws where parents can relinquish their newborns, no questions asked, “overlooks the consequences of forcing upon her the choice of having to decide whether to give a child up for adoption. That itself is its own monumental decision for her.” People who have lived and studied the realities of adoption also had a lot to say about Barrett’s blithe solution — one that drew on a well-established conservative political strategy to put adoption forward as the kinder face of the anti-abortion movement.

The day after oral arguments, I had a conversation with Angela Tucker, a transracial adoptee, host of The Adoptee Next Door, and media consultant; Kate Livingston, Ph.D., a birth parent and educator of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies; Kathryn Joyce, journalist and author of The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption; and sociologist Gretchen Sisson, Ph.D., who studies abortion, adoption, and reproductive decision-making in the United States.

Irin Carmon: I wonder how each of you felt when you heard Amy Coney Barrett’s remarks.
Kate Livingston:  I am one of those people that grew up in the pro-life community and did a lot of pro-life activism. You would find me working for Ohio Right to Life as an elementary-school student, packing literature orders for the satellite chapters with really graphic photos in them. I knew how abortion was performed before I knew about sex. And I could tell you different types of abortions, the mechanics of that, when I was in elementary school and middle school. It wasn’t until I did an adoption at the age of 19 that I started rethinking some of those things.

Adoption was the only thing that I could consider because I had sinned by having sex outside of marriage as a teenager, and it was a redemptive practice. It was only after losing my child to adoption — and I used the word losing purposefully — that I started to think about how I was trapped in between these positive and negative messages: Wait a minute. You’ve been telling me that I am a hero and that I am a good person. So I don’t understand why I’m also someone that wouldn’t have been a good parent to my child.

I knew I would’ve been a good parent because I knew I loved my child. I knew I was a resourceful, hard worker. I knew all these things about myself. In trying to reconcile those two stories, I became critical of the fact that only two stories were being told. And so I decided to get two graduate degrees in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, where I could ask those kinds of questions. And I got involved in adoption-related activism and started some support groups where I had the opportunity to talk to many birth parents.

Barrett implies that with the termination of parental rights, that experience is over. But I know that the termination of parental rights in adoption is only the beginning of a very complicated and ongoing, changing, lifelong experience that impacts not only me — the decision maker — but my relatives, my family, not to mention my child who was placed for adoption, and so on. One pro-life communication strategy is to push the idea that abortion has long-term impacts. That abortion can produce grief and loss and regret, and it can have a health impact. But you don’t see that kind of language when they talk about adoption.

Angela Tucker: I remember an adoptee talking to me about something she learned about her birth mother, which was that her birth mother found that placing her for adoption was so traumatic that her birth mother aborted all of her future pregnancies. The abortion was actually the more bearable option after placing a child for adoption.

The safe-haven laws and the baby boxes are prized on the adoption market because healthy American newborns are scarce. Some adoptive parents really would love to get a safe-haven baby specifically because they would prefer to have no connection with the biological moms. As an adoptee, that troubles me. Adoptees are four times likelier to attempt suicide, and that’s partly because of the anonymity of our birth parents, because of not knowing our roots, not knowing where we came from. And having loving adoptive parents doesn’t preclude us from wanting to know where we came from.

Kate: I can’t tell you how many times that I was told I was a hero for considering adoption. That kind of language: hero, champion for life, loving, selfless. But at the same time, this narrative — the one promoted by Amy Coney Barrett — positions pregnant women and birth mothers as people who are inherently deficient. They’re people who are inevitably going to be bad parents. They’re people who are so either morally, intellectually, or financially flawed that they need somebody to set parameters for them in terms of law and policy to help guide their decision.

And honestly, to use a really inflammatory word, the message from pro-life organizations is that we are also potential murderers. We must be restrained by these laws, because if they don’t show us the way, we are going to have an abortion. So when Justice Barrett talks about avoiding the obligations of motherhood and the consequences of pregnancy, she is tapping into a story that you hear all over our culture about how women who are considering adoption or considering abortion are frivolous. They’re irresponsible, that what they’re motivated by is to get out of their obligations.

And that they’re hypersexualized. That’s a racialized story as well.
Angela: Every time the abortion debate comes up, I get tons of messages from people who say things like what Candace Owens has tweeted before, which is that “it must have been hard for you to hear all these people talk about how worthless your life is and how you should have been murdered. How does this make you feel?” I get inundated with these messages. But what I learned from getting to know my birth mother is that she would’ve preferred to have parented me. She couldn’t because of poverty. As a Black woman, I feel even more targeted by that murderer rhetoric, because it’s what people assume my birth mother to be had she not chosen adoption for me.

And so when people ask me how I feel “since I wasn’t murdered,” the point is not whether or not I’m grateful that my birth mom didn’t abort me, it’s that she deserved to be able to make a choice.

Gretchen Sisson: When we’re looking at how women make pregnancy decisions around adoption, what we found is that women are not choosing between abortion and adoption the same way that the signs in the March for Life want you to believe that they are, where they cross out the B and put in the D to make “abortion” spell “adoption.” They make it sound like this is an easy switch that women are making. I have encountered almost no women that are choosing between those two things and weighing one against the other. But that doesn’t mean that those two things are unrelated.

Photo: Retailer

What we do see is that when you deny women access to abortion, most of them choose to parent. In research I did that drew on the Turnaway Study — 956 women seeking abortion, including 231 who were denied abortion because of gestational age — among women who were turned away from accessing abortions that they wanted, over 90 percent of them chose to parent. My colleagues see those numbers and say, “This is a minuscule number of people who are relinquishing for adoption. One hundred percent of these women wanted to have an abortion. Why are so many of them parenting?” From my perspective, I’m like, “Oh my gosh, 9 percent of them place for adoption compared to less than 1 percent of all women. This is a huge number.” So what we know is when you take away abortion, there will be more adoptions. But that’s a constrained choice, which is to say there’s no choice. When you take away an option, women do what they can with what’s left.

For most of those who continue their pregnancies and ultimately choose to relinquish parental rights, it is because they had intended to parent. They had been either planning on or hoping to have a certain amount of financial support, emotional support, partner support that either falls through or does not materialize by a certain point in their pregnancy. And then they turn to adoption when parenting does not seem tenable to them.

It is nine times out of ten a function of lack of financial resources that leads to the adoption. And for those people, when I ask how much money would you have needed to parent, if you intended to parent, it is usually a very small amount of money, under $5,000. And that is a reflection of our overall lack of social investment in families and parents.

Given who is disproportionately affected by banning abortion — those who have the least options in a state like Mississippi, those who would be unable to get on a plane to another state — what are the racial dynamics here of an imagined pipeline between banning abortion and adoptive parents?
Angela:  We all remember Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination hearing when she lined up all seven of her kids behind her, including her two Haitian kids, her Black kids, and actually committed microaggressions against them on national TV, saying that her daughter Vivian was so weak after they adopted her from Haiti, and they were told that she would never walk or talk normally. And now she deadlifts as much as the male athletes in her gym. And she added, “And I assure you, she has no trouble talking.”

At the time, you posted on Facebook, “Anyone notice how Amy Coney Barrett spoke of her biological kids in terms of their intellectual prowess and spoke of her adopted kids about their trauma history? Now this is a prime example of implicit bias. Unconscious racism. This is an example of white saviorism.” It went viral, and you got a lot of abuse.
Angela: Any time I post about transracial adoption and critique the practice or the industry, I get an overwhelming amount of emails and DMs saying, “Why can’t you just be grateful for what you’ve been given?”

There’s been a move in some states and federally to ban abortions for certain reasons, including supposed discrimination on the basis of race, gender, or disability. I remember the white congressman who evoked his adopted children to say that Planned Parenthood was “killing children who look like mine.” Barrett hasn’t said anything like that, but there’s a rhetorical implication for white adoptive parents here: How could I possibly be racist when I have two Black children?
Angela: We can’t just assume that all white parents are capable of raising Black and brown kids in our racial society. People like myself, transracial adoptees who are Black, raised by loving white parents, but have been cut off from my culture and have had to work really hard to regain my Black community in adulthood because it was not provided to me in my childhood.

Kathryn, I was rereading your book today and you talk about corresponding with a woman who’s desperate to adopt. She’s an Evangelical Christian and international adoption is closed to her because of crackdowns on exploitation. So she starts looking at babies relinquished under safe-haven laws. And she asks you, Kathryn, “Would it be wrong to attempt to talk a woman out of having an abortion and ask her to let me adopt the child instead?” You say, “Yes.” And then she quotes a friend who says, “‘When you take one of these children, you are literally saving them from the ghetto life in America.’” Crisis-pregnancy centers, of course, are part of the apparatus of this.
Kathryn Joyce: Back about 15 years ago, in response to the fact that not enough women, by their assessment, were relinquishing children for adoptions, a national adoption-lobbying organization got together with a Christian right anti-abortion group to put out a couple of pamphlets. The intention was helping train crisis-pregnancy centers talk more pregnant people into relinquishing children for adoption.

One of them had the title “Birthmother, Good Mother: Her Story of Heroic Redemption.”  The way for you — person who is pregnant out of wedlock, person who we do not consider worthy of considering keeping her own child — to be a good mother is to become a birth mother, which means to relinquish your parental rights. And, as the subtitle underscores, that this is the way you can redeem yourself, that you have something to redeem yourself for, that you have sinned, whether or not they’re going to use that word.

Crisis-pregnancy centers have had a checkered record when it comes to coercing people into choosing adoption. Some of the earliest ones were started decades ago by Leslee Unruh of Abstinence Clearinghouse. There were these stories of women being offered payments to relinquish children for adoption, all kinds of shady pressure. In other major crisis-pregnancy center networks, there were stories, in one case, of a woman and her partner. The woman was going into labor and she did not want to proceed with an adoption plan. And the crisis-pregnancy center was basically detaining her in their office while she was in labor, rather than helping her, enabling her to get to medical treatment.

Sometimes these forms of coercion can be really extreme. A lot of times, they’re more subtle. It’s that constant insinuation that You’re not good enough. You are not prepared for this. And that can be drummed home in really subtle ways, like making people fill out these long budget checklists that often include things that aren’t even normal expenses. Weighing it so that she’s going to come up short.

I remember when I was reporting my book, and I was reading a lot of adoption blogs, I would come across posts describing, “My orphan is out there. Someday there is going to be this mother and she’s going to die, or she’s going to otherwise not be able to keep her child. And this is the child that God is placing there for me.” It turned out they were not describing a child that has been born. They were describing a hypothetical child that God had placed in somebody else’s womb. This was meant to be, this was ordained. And when you have that sort of idea, you can’t really be thinking about the mother, or the parents as real people, with their own rights and agency.

Gretchen: I actually spoke with a birth mother who fell out with her daughter’s adoptive family over the Kavanaugh hearings, because her daughter was conceived as a result of sexual assault. Her daughter’s adoptive mother was so thrilled that they were getting this amazing, pro-life justice confirmed that she couldn’t make any space to talk about the way her daughter was conceived.

Angela: As the adoptee, it really definitely feels like I am a commodity — I’m both deeply desired and wanted and we’ll do illegal things to get you. And also, your ancestry, the people you come from, are worthless and they’re ghetto. It’s really confusing as an adoptee to sit in the middle of that. Thankfully, for me, I didn’t necessarily feel this because my parents truly showed love to my birth parents after we met them (I was in a closed adoption and didn’t find them until I was an adult). But I think about a couple of the youth that I’m mentoring right now and one person in particular, who is a Black boy with a white dad who is a cop who believes that Derek Chauvin did not murder George Floyd and wears Blue Lives Matter stuff.

Coming to terms with all of that leaves adoptees pitted in this middle of an argument of abortion versus adoption that, of course, as we’ve talked about, shouldn’t be conflated in the first place. Because adoption isn’t a solution to another issue.

Kate: What’s happening at the Supreme Court right now is that a bunch of people who don’t live my life, who don’t live Angela’s life, are using us as a tool to further their own agenda. They’re co-opting our lives and our stories.

How Amy Coney Barrett played a role in Bush v. Gore — and helped the Republican Party defend mail ballots

Amy Coney Barrett was just three years out of law school, a 28-year-old associate at a boutique Washington law firm, when she was dispatched to Florida to help George W. Bush’s legal team rescue thousands of Republican absentee ballots.

The litigation was a sidebar to the central drama of the 2000 presidential contest, but a loss in the case could have cost Bush the presidency.

At issue were thousands of absentee ballot request forms in Martin County — just north of Palm Beach County, home of the notorious “butterfly ballot” — that had missing voter registration information.

After county officials allowed the GOP to take the forms back and fill in the missing information, a Democratic voter sued, saying ballots cast by those voters should be tossed out. The county canvassing board, the Florida Republican Party and the Bush campaign argued that the votes should still count.

Barrett’s work on the case serves as a reminder of how aggressively the Republican Party has sought to harness mail voting for years, in contrast to President Trump’s relentless attacks on the practice.

This year, the Trump campaign and Republicans in Iowa have pushed to invalidate tens of thousands of absentee ballot applications with missing information that had been filled in by county officials.

“It’s the very antithesis of what we were arguing to the courts back then,” said Daryl Bristow, who represented the Bush campaign in the Martin County absentee ballot case and a related suit in nearby Seminole County. “We were trying to keep voters from being disenfranchised.”

As both parties brace for the possibility of another contested election that Trump has suggested could go to the high court, the previously unreported role of his Supreme Court nominee in the absentee ballot fight is more than a historical footnote. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh also played a role in Bush v. Gore — meaning that if Barrett is confirmed, three of the nine justices will have participated in litigation related to the only presidential contest to be decided by the high court.

“Here we are, two decades after Bush v. Gore, and it’s as if it was yesterday,” said Daniel Smith, a University of Florida political science professor. “It divided the nation 20 years ago, and it’s amazing how it continues to be a specter in national politics.”

In the U.S. Senate questionnaire she submitted late last month, Barrett said she spent a week in Florida contributing research and briefing assistance on Bush v. Gore, but provided no specifics. Court records show that she is on the list of lawyers who were served with filings in the Martin County case, indicating her involvement in that suit.

Barrett did not respond to a request for comment made through the White House and has not publicly discussed her precise duties in the Martin County case. In her Senate questionnaire, she said she worked in Florida with Stuart Levey, a partner in the Washington law firm Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin, who was part of the Bush team battling to keep the Republican mail votes. (Miller Cassidy merged with the venerable firm Baker Botts the following year.)

Levey declined to comment.

First in her law school class at Notre Dame and a former clerk for Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, Barrett fit the profile of the kind of up-and-coming conservative lawyer the Republican Party recruited to parachute into Florida to help in the hotly contested recount.

Amy Douthit Maddux, a junior lawyer on the Bush team who remembers communicating with another lawyer named Amy on the case, said, “It was just exciting to be able to work on something of such importance as a very young lawyer, and given the speed with which things were happening, everyone was relied upon.”

The Martin County plaintiff, Ronald Taylor, was seeking to capitalize on a glitch in the state Republican Party’s absentee ballot program.

Request forms sent by the party to Republican voters mistakenly omitted their voter registration numbers, leading those requests to be set aside by the Martin County elections office. The county elections supervisor allowed a local Republican Party official to take the incomplete request forms, add the missing numbers and return them the following day, according to court filings. GOP voters who had used the request forms to seek absentee ballots were then able to receive them. 

The Democratic plaintiff argued those votes were tainted. “It was a sinister underground conspiracy,” argued his attorney Edward Stafman, according to newspaper accounts.

Along with the similar lawsuit in nearby Seminole County, Democrats were trying to nix roughly 25,000 absentee votes in a contest in which Bush was leading by 537 votes.

Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis listens as George W. Bush’s campaign lawyer Barry Richard, left, speaks during a hearing on Dec. 6, 2000, in Tallahassee
Reporters and spectators gather outside the Florida Supreme Court to hear the court’s decision in the presidential election recount case on Dec. 8, 2000 in Tallahassee.

Back-to-back trials were held in Leon County Circuit Court in Tallahassee. The judges issued a joint statement: “Despite irregularities in the requests for absentee ballots, neither the sanctity of the ballots nor the integrity of the election has been compromised, and . . . the election results reflect a full and fair expression of the will of the voters.”

Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore, whose campaign was making the case that every vote must be counted, did not join the lawsuits.

“It tells you that sometimes what goes around comes around,” said veteran GOP election lawyer Benjamin L. Ginsberg, who served as national counsel for the Bush campaign, and noted that Democrats this year are fighting to expand which mail ballots are counted. “You have to admire the irony of the moment since that is not consistent with the position [Democrats are] taking now.”

The Martin and Seminole County plaintiffs immediately appealed to the Florida Supreme Court as the clock ticked toward the deadline for the state to appoint its 25 presidential electors. “It was a crazy, crazy kind of schedule,” said Mark Miller, then a colleague of Barrett, who recalled scrambling with her from Washington to Orlando to assist the Bush campaign.

The same day the U.S. Supreme Court essentially handed the election to Bush by putting a stop to manual recounts in the state, the Florida Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s decision in the Martin and Seminole County cases.

“It was a no-brainer on the law,” Maddux said. “There was no proof anywhere that the people who voted should not have voted. But they were important cases because had it gone south, it would have been enough to change the results.”

Along with young lawyers like Barrett, the GOP pulled in seasoned constitutional experts for help in Florida.

Roberts, a then 45-year-old who had worked in the White House and argued dozens of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court as a partner in a Washington law firm, was summoned to Tallahassee to advise the Bush campaign and prep a lawyer appearing before the Florida Supreme Court.

That lawyer was Michael Carvin, a Washington-based voting rights expert, who said Roberts’ legal skills and grasp of constitutional issues were prized in the early weeks of the election dispute.

Bush-Cheney witness Laurentius Maris, a statistician, is questioned by attorney Phil Beck during the trial on Dec. 3, 2000, in the Leon County Court House in Tallahassee.
Michael Carvin and Barry Richards, lawyers for Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush, confer before their oral arguments to the Florida Supreme Court on Nov. 20, 2000, in Tallahassee.

The Bush campaign was opposing Democratic efforts to extend the recount in Palm Beach County and arguing that the Florida secretary of state had the authority to declare a winner seven days after the election. Lawyers hunkered down at the Republican Party’s headquarters in Tallahassee worked frantically to submit the brief to the Florida Supreme Court on a Sunday evening. “It was bedlam,” Carvin recalled.

To prepare for court the next day, Carvin, Roberts and a handful of others adjourned to attorney Barry Richards’s Tallahassee law office. In the relative quiet of a conference room, Roberts helped Carvin hone his responses to questions he expected from the state court judges, Carvin recalled.

“It wasn’t brain surgery,” he said, adding that the legal issues were straightforward. But he said having Roberts on hand was helpful not only for that moment, but in anticipating future legal developments.

Carvin said he and Roberts correctly guessed that Bush would lose that state court skirmish over the Palm Beach County recount. But while preparing for that battle, they developed a strategy that would raise the federal issues that would assure a later review by the U.S. Supreme Court, he said. 

Roberts returned to Tallahassee in December to offer counsel to then-Gov. Jeb Bush, who was in the crosshairs as his brother’s leading campaign surrogate and the chief executive of a state facing an election meltdown.

In an email to The Washington Post, Bush said he had asked his top legal advisers “to find the best constitutional lawyers to brief me on my Constitutional duties as Governor . . . I recused myself from responsibilities regarding state law but I had ministerial duties I wanted to do correctly.”

Frank Jimenez, then acting general counsel to Gov. Bush, said he recommended Roberts on a suggestion from Dean Colson, a prominent Miami lawyer who had co-clerked with Roberts for Supreme Court Justice William H. Rehnquist. The night before the appointment with Bush, Jimenez, a son of Cuban immigrants, took Roberts to Carlos’ Cuban Cafe in Tallahassee for dinner.

During their hour-long meeting, Roberts and Bush discussed two election-related documents the governor needed to sign and send to the National Archives, Jimenez said.

“Thank you for your time today. I really appreciate your input on my role in this unique and historic situation,” Bush said in an email to Roberts released shortly before the governor’s presidential campaign launch in 2015.

Lawyer David Boies, representing Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore, delivers his oral argument from the podium before the Florida Supreme Court on Dec. 7, 2000, in Tallahassee.
Leon County Court administrator Terre Cass reads the decision in the Martin and Seminole County election cases, on Dec. 8, 2000, in Tallahassee. Both judges ruled against throwing out the absentee ballots, a win for George W. Bush’s campaign.

In contrast to Roberts and Barrett, who worked quietly behind the scenes in Florida, Kavanaugh was out in public on behalf of the Bush campaign.


Then a 35-year-old partner at one of the nation’s largest law firms and battle-tested from working with independent counsel Ken Starr to investigate President Bill Clinton, he went to Democratic-leaning Volusia County in central Florida to help oversee a manual recount of roughly 200,000 ballots, according to Kavanaugh’s Senate questionnaire. He had been serving as a regional coordinator for the Bush campaign’s coalition of legal supporters.

Unlike in South Florida, where punchcard ballots led to the much-maligned hanging chads, Volusia County used optical scan ballots. Kavanaugh helped direct the Republican strategy of closely scrutinizing ballots where voters had failed to properly fill in the bubble next to a candidate’s name, said Shannen Coffin, another Republican attorney on the ground in Volusia.

Brett was kind of the guy we looked up to,” said Coffin, who later served as counsel to Vice President Richard B. Cheney. “If there was an irregularity in the recount process, he wanted it documented. It was a zealous representation of a client, but not a win-at-any-cost strategy.”

Weeks later, Kavanaugh delivered legal analysis on national television outside the U.S. Supreme Court on the eve of the momentous decision that ended the election morass. He would go on to serve as associate counsel to the new president.

I think what we are seeing is more of a divide over how to interpret the Constitution than really political differences,” Kavanaugh said in the interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “I don’t think the justices care that it’s Bush versus Gore or if it were Gore versus Bush. What they care about is how to interpret the Constitution, what are the enduring values that are going to stand a generation from now.”

There Should Be No Doubt Why Trump Nominated Amy Coney Barrett

Amy Coney Barrett, whom President Trump has nominated to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, was born in 1972, so she can expect to spend several decades shaping both American law and American life. As it happens, a year before Barrett’s birth, Lewis F. Powell, Jr., then a prominent lawyer in Richmond, Virginia, and later a Supreme Court Justice himself, wrote a now famous memorandum to the United States Chamber of Commerce, arguing that businesses needed to take a more aggressive hand in shaping public policy. “The American economic system is under broad attack,” he wrote, from, specifically, the consumer, environmental, and labor movements. He added that “the campus is the single most dynamic source” of that attack. To counter it, Powell suggested that business interests should make a major financial commitment to shaping universities, so that the “bright young men” of tomorrow would hear messages of support for the free-enterprise system. A little less than a decade later, a pair of law professors named Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia signed on as the first faculty advisers to a fledgling organization for conservative law students called the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies. The efforts of the Federalist Society were lavishly funded by the business interests invoked by Powell, and it has trained a generation or two of future leaders. Not all of them have been “bright young men.” Some are women, including Barrett, and her confirmation would vindicate Powell’s plan and transform the Supreme Court.

Barrett made an appealing first impression in 2017, during her confirmation hearings to the federal bench. She and her husband are the parents of seven children. For many years, she was a popular professor at Notre Dame Law School, which she also attended and from which she graduated summa cum laude. She clerked on the Supreme Court for Justice Scalia. As a judge on the Seventh Circuit, she has been a reliable conservative voice. Even liberal peers in the academy find her personable. She will probably do well in providing the artful non-answers that are the currency of Supreme Court confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, just as she did in 2017.

But there should be no doubt about why Barrett has been chosen. Much of the commentary about her selection will focus on the issue of abortion, and her likely role in overturning Roe v. Wade. During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly promised to appoint Justices who would vote to overrule that landmark, and with his three selections, including Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, he appears to have delivered. Barrett is not only a member of a conservative organization within the Catholic Church; her legal writings, and the views of some who know her, suggest that she would overturn Roe.

Still, it’s worth remembering the real priorities of Trump and Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, in this nomination. They’re happy to accommodate the anti-abortion base of the Republican Party, but an animating passion of McConnell’s career has been the deregulation of political campaigns. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision brought the issue to wide public attention, but McConnell has been crusading about it for decades. He wants the money spigot kept open, so that he can protect his Senate majority and the causes for which it stands. This, too, is why the Federalist Society has been so lavishly funded over the years, and why it has expanded from a mere campus organization into a national behemoth for lawyers and students. Under Republican Presidents, Federalist Society events have come to operate as auditions for judicial appointments. The corporate interests funding the growth of the Federalist Society probably weren’t especially interested in abortion, but they were almost certainly committed to crippling the regulatory state.

Barrett is a product of this movement, and not just because she clerked for Scalia. Her writings and early rulings reflect it. Her financial-disclosure form shows that, in recent years, she has received about seven thousand dollars in honoraria from the Federalist Society and went on ten trips funded by it. But it’s not as if Barrett was bought; she was already sold. The judge has described herself as a “textualist” and an “originalist”—the same words of legal jargon that were associated with Scalia. (She believes in relying on the specific meaning of the words in statutes, not on legislators’ intent. She interprets the Constitution according to her belief in what the words meant when the document was ratified, not what the words mean now.) But these words are abstractions. In the real world, they operate as an agenda to crush labor unions, curtail environmental regulation, constrain the voting rights of minorities, limit government support for health care, and free the wealthy to buy political influence.

It should go without saying that the nomination and the expected confirmation of Barrett in the final days before a Presidential election represent a paramount act of hypocrisy for McConnell and the other Republicans who denied even a hearing to Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court, in 2016. But the fact that these Republicans are willing to risk that charge shows how important the Supreme Court is to them. Far more than a senator, a Supreme Court Justice can deliver on the agenda. The war on abortion is just the start.