10.27.20 — Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the United States Supreme Court will have profound implications for the health of Americans. In a new piece published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, three nationally known health law scholars explain the most immediate and wide-reaching consequences of Barrett’s elevation 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.

“A new conservative majority will give Justices the power to determine whether people can access affordable health care and whether women who are poor or live in rural areas can access abortions, says Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law. “The Court may well restrict the powers of public health officials to curb COVID-19, including mask mandates and restrictions on public gatherings. 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, including vaccination mandates.”

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,” says Wendy E. Parmet, Matthews Distinguished University Professor of Law at Northeastern University School of Law.

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,” argues Sara Rosenbaum, JD, the Harold and Jane Hirsh Professor of Health Law at the George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.

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


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About Northeastern University School of Law

The nation’s leader in experiential legal education since 1968, Northeastern University School of Law offers the longest-running, most extensive experience-based legal education program in the country and is a national leader in legal education reform. Founded with cooperative legal education as the cornerstone of its program, Northeastern guarantees its students unparalleled practical legal work experiences. All students participate in full-time legal placements, and can choose from the more than 1,500 employers worldwide participating in the school’s signature Cooperative Legal Education Program. Northeastern University School of Law blends theory and practice, providing students with a unique set of skills and experience to successfully practice law.

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