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What Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s Confirmation Means for Health Law

October 27, 2020

GW: Kathy Fackelmann, 202-994-6460 [email protected],
Georgetown: Lauren Dueck [email protected],
Northeastern: [email protected]

WASHINGTON (October 27, 2020)—Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court of the United States will have profound implications for health law and public health law. In a new piece published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, three nationally known health law scholars outline some of the most immediate and wide-reaching consequences as a result of Barrett’s appointment to the highest court of the land.

Justice Barrett will hear cases where her vote may determine the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as well as the fate of Roe v. Wade. In addition to these seminal decisions, Justice Barrett could rule on Medicaid work requirements, contraceptive access, employer-sponsored health plans, firearms and more.

“Litigation will decide the future of public health powers in light of COVID-19,” Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, said. “The range of emergency powers exercised by states during the COVID-19 pandemic is wide – and a new case to be argued in early November will determine the fate of many public health laws. Should Justice Barrett take an expansive view of religious liberty, as seems likely, we might see wider application of religious exemptions to public health laws.”

Just days after Barrett takes her seat as the ninth justice, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on a case that could invalidate the ACA, the comprehensive health care reform law enacted in 2010.

“Justice Barrett’s vote on the Affordable Care Act will come quickly – and her decision will determine whether or not 20 million people lose their subsidized health insurance in the middle of a pandemic,” Wendy E. Parmet, Matthews Distinguished University Professor of Law at Northeastern University School of Law, said.

The authors point out that Justice Barrett has a voting record that will tilt the court to the right, especially on the issue of abortion and other reproductive health issues.

“A new conservative court will undoubtedly reshape reproductive rights. The Court could hear cases banning abortions after 15 weeks, and 10 states currently have laws all but ending access to safe abortions that will be triggered if Roe v. Wade is overturned,” Sara Rosenbaum, JD, the Harold and Jane Hirsh Professor of Health Law at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, argued.

Read the article at the Journal of the American Medical Association.