President Trump has nominated Former Attorney General William Barr to be the next attorney general. As the nation’s chief law enforcement official, the Attorney General is responsible for defending important statutory and constitutional protections that are critical to women, including reproductive rights, protections against sex discrimination and harassment, and other civil rights. The Trump Administration’s Department of Justice, under the leadership of Jeff Sessions, has already taken significant steps to roll back our constitutional freedoms and statutory rights. In the last two years, the Justice Department has removed civil rights protections for transgender people, reduced sexual harassment protections in the workplace and school, refused to defend the Affordable Care Act in court, and undermined abortion access and birth control access.
William Barr, during his prior tenure at DOJ and since leaving his role, has shown his hostility toward abortion access, health care, LGBTQ rights, immigrant rights, and civil rights. Based on his record, there is every reason to believe that as Attorney General, Barr would continue Jeff Session’s legacy, and push DOJ in other ways that erode critical legal rights and protections.
This Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Barr. Here are five things you should know:
- William Barr has extreme anti-abortion views and has repeatedly attacked the validity of Roe v. Wade. During his 1991 Attorney General confirmation hearing, he said, “I do not believe the right to privacy extends to abortion,” and that, “Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overruled.” Under his leadership as Attorney General, the Department of Justice submitted a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey arguing that “Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overruled” and that “the State’s interest in protecting fetal life throughout pregnancy, as a general matter, outweighs a women’s liberty interest in an abortion.” We cannot have an Attorney General who will undermine Roe.
- William Barr opposes the Affordable Care Act. After leaving the Department of Justice, Barr joined amicus briefs in two cases in 2011 arguing that the ACA must be invalidated in its entirety.Before the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies routinely engaged in discriminatory practices – for example, charging women more than men for the same health insurance coverage, or denying coverage entirely to individuals with pre-existing conditions. Additionally, many plans did not cover the major services women need, like maternity care. DOJ has already taken the unprecedented step of refusing to defend the ACA in court and weighing in against the constitutionality of the ACA and Barr must be pressed on whether he would continue this practice.
- William Barr thinks employers should be allowed to deny birth control coverage. In 2016, Barr signed onto an amicus brief in Zubik v. Burwell that defended the right of employers to impose their religious beliefs on their employees and block their employees from receiving coverage for contraception, which is guaranteed to them by the Affordable Care Act. DOJ is currently refusing to defend the ACA’s contraceptive coverage requirement, defending Trump Administration rules that undermine that requirement, and entering in illegal settlement agreements with employers who object to providing coverage. Barr must answer to whether he would protect women’s right to birth control coverage.
- As Attorney General, William Barr pushed harmful restrictions on immigration. When he was attorney general, Barr increased DOJ’s efforts to deport immigrants. Barr was responsible for implementing an immigration executive order that banned HIV-positive individuals from entering the U.S. He oversaw the illegal detention of hundreds of HIV-positive Haitian refugees in Guantanamo Bay who were granted asylum. Although the HIV ban ultimately was upheld by the Supreme Court, the Clinton administration recognized that the ban was cruel and discriminatory and abandoned its enforcement. The Trump Administration later used this Supreme Court decision to defend Trump’s executive authority to implement the Muslim travel bans.
- William Barr has voiced animus toward the LGBTQ community. Barr has criticized the equal treatment of LGBTQ student groups, claiming that it “dissolves any form of moral consensus in society.” He has also defended Jeff Sessions and the Trump Administration’s decision to revoke the Obama era directive to view “sex” as encompassing gender identity, which extends protections to transgender people. His position endangers the rights of the LGBTQ community.
The Senate Judiciary Committee must confront Barr about his anti-women record to ensure that he would protect the ability for us to make decisions about our bodies and our lives. We deserve an Attorney General who will safeguard our civil and constitutional rights, not someone who will continue the regressive agenda of his predecessors and be a permanent stain on our democracy.