A little over two years ago, swathed in blankets and surrounded by many of my Senate colleagues, my then ten-day-old daughter napped her way into history when she became the first infant allowed onto the Senate floor. That afternoon, I held her in my arms while I cast a vote, fulfilling my duty to the Constitution, my constituents, and my newborn.
I will never forget that moment, as my Republican and Democratic colleagues alike stood up and cheered for that milestone while little Maile Pearl continued to sleep blissfully in my lap. But I will also always remember how I felt last week—the deep knot of dread, sadness and anguish in the pit of my stomach—when I learned that President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee likely doesn’t believe my Maile or her older sister Abigail should have ever been born in the first place. Those feelings came from a recent report that Amy Coney Barrett signed her name on a 2006 newspaper advertisement led by St. Joseph County Right to Life reading: “We, the following citizens of Michiana, oppose abortion on demand and defend the right to life from fertilization to natural death. Please continue to pray to end abortion.”
While we are each, of course, entitled to our own beliefs about women’s access to constitutionally-protected healthcare choices, St. Joseph County Right to Life is an organization whose views are considered radical even within the larger anti-choice movement, in part due to its stated belief that steps in the in-vitro fertilization (IVF) process that gave me my children should be outlawed, that doctors who use IVF to help women start families should be put behind bars, and that will only go so far as to say that moms who have kids through IVF shouldn’t be criminalized “at this point.” Not that they believe moms like me aren’t criminals, just that we shouldn’t be criminalized yet.
While my two beautiful little girls are unique, my story of struggling with fertility is not. Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), including IVF treatment, has enabled thousands of Americans to become parents in red and blue states alike. So I’m going to spend every moment I can from now until the final vote trying to ensure my fellow Senators—especially those on the other side of the aisle who cooed and cuddled Maile when she first visited the Capitol—fully consider the very real impact their vote on nominee could have on those Americans hoping to one day have daughters or sons of their own. With every ounce of love I have for my daughters, I’m going to urge my colleagues to fully consider the message their support of an ideologue who appears to believe my girls shouldn’t even exist sends not only to me, but to parents-to-be around this country struggling with infertility and whose dreams may only be achieved through IVF or other similar technologies.
» READ MORE: Trump nominates Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court
Judge Barrett’s nomination is deeply controversial for a host of reasons, and I understand that not all of us agree on the next steps in her nomination process. But her willingness to associate her name with such an organization is disqualifying, and, frankly, insulting to every parent, hopeful parent or would-be parent who has struggled to have kids. Formally signing on to the message of an organization with these radical views goes beyond other nominees and demonstrates a lack of judgement, an absence of due diligence and a derision toward those parents who were only able to have children with the help of methods and assistance that Judge Barrett personally disapproves of.
I fear that if confirmed to the nation’s highest court, Judge Barrett would be unable to resist the temptation of overturning decades of judicial precedent in an effort to force every American to adhere to her individual moral code. I fear that if a case involving ART were to be brought before the bench, families like mine would not be able to trust that her opinions would be based on facts, laws, and the Constitution rather than swayed by her individual beliefs.
So now it’s on my colleagues to look within themselves and decide whether women like me should have the right to become moms or whether we should be considered criminals. And then, I hope they’ll join me in speaking out for every American who has struggled with infertility by opposing this confirmation.
Tammy Duckworth is a U.S. Senator from Illinois.