Supreme Court to Review Anti-Choice Law Designed by Alliance Defending Freedom to Overturn Roe

Amy Coney Barrett at the White House Sept. 26, 2001 after her Supreme Court nomination was announced by President Donald Trump.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Monday morning that it will hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which Vox legal analyst Ian Millhiser calls “a major threat to Roe v. Wade” and “the first abortion case to be fully briefed and argued before the Supreme Court since Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation last October.” The Court’s agreement to hear the case reflects the progress of the religious-right legal movement’s strategic plan to overturn the landmark decision affirming a constitutional right to abortion by enacting ever-more restrictive state abortion bans and getting them approved by federal courts that Donald Trump and Republican senators pushed aggressively to the right.

The law in question was passed by the Mississippi state legislature and is based on model legislation promoted by the religious-right legal group Alliance Defending Freedom as part of its plan to “eradicate” Roe v. Wade. “I am happy to say the first 15-week limitation based on our model language was just introduced in the state of Mississippi this week,” ADF Senior Counsel Denise Burke bragged at an Evangelicals for Life conference in 2018.

Right Wing Watch was the first to report on the Evangelicals for Life panel at which the ADF’s Burke described getting states, like Mississippi, to ban abortion at 15 weeks as the first step toward completely outlawing abortion. She added that “once we get these first-trimester limitations in place, we’re going to go for a complete ban on abortion except to save the life of the mother.”

Indeed, more restrictive abortion bans have been enacted by other states since then; Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has signaled his intention to sign a so-called “heartbeat” bill that passed the state legislature last week. If it becomes law, it would ban abortions as early as six weeks post-conception, which as the Texas Tribune noted last week is “before many women know they are pregnant.” The Texas legislation would require those who become pregnant after being raped to carry the rapist’s child to term. It also includes provisions allowing any citizen to sue doctors who perform abortions along with anyone who assists them.

Notably, Barrett was paid at least five times to speak at conferences held for recipients of the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, ADF’s program to train young lawyers to advance the organization’s “biblical worldview” through the law. ADF once stated on its website that Blackstone’s goal was to “recover the robust Christendomic theology of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries.”

As Right Wing Watch has reported, some dominionist religious-right leaders began declaring in 2017 that Barrett was anointed by God to serve on the Supreme Court, overturn Roe, and bring about the criminalization of all abortions in the U.S. Dominionist preacher Lou Engle has repeatedly recounted anti-choice activist Matt Lockett’s “prophetic” dream in which Lockett says he grabbed Karen Pence by the shoulders and told her, “Remember the name Amy Coney Barrett!”

Some religious-right leaders were so sure that God wanted Barrett on the Supreme Court that in 2018, when Trump decided to nominate Brett Kavanaugh instead, ADF-affiliated attorney Phillip Jauregui, president of Judicial Action Group, told more than 1,000 “prayer warriors” convened by the Trump-aligned Intercessors for America network that God had revealed Kavanaugh to be a “usurper.” Last fall, IFA teamed up with White House aide Paula White’s Once Voice Prayer Movement to promote Barrett’s confirmation.

During the Trump administration, religious-right leaders and activists repeatedly prayed for God to “remove” Supreme Court justices to give Trump the ability to name justices to the court who would overturn Roe v. Wade.

Last year, Frank Amedia, founder of the dominionist pro-Trump network POTUS Shield, celebrated Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death as a “move of God” that would allow Trump to fulfill prophecies that he would be given three Supreme Court nominations to fill. The rest of Amedia’s prediction—that Ginsburg’s death was just the first “blast” of God’s plan to turn the election around for Trump—did not come to pass.

Religious-right leaders have also been hopeful that Barrett will help them overturn the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling as part of a much broader agenda to reshape American law and society.