I’ve been plenty invested in the outcome of certain elections or different political battles. I follow U.S. politics not only because my job requires it—I’m an opinion journalist—but also because it comes naturally to me. Studying political theory strengthened my inbred interest in the political process, convincing me that our fights over policy and culture matter and that our laws and leaders have a measurable effect on the kind of society we create.
My focus on abortion policy and the pro-life movement, especially, gives me a stronger sense that politics isn’t just about the squabbles and obfuscations, though there are more than enough of those. Sometimes it can be about life or death.
Never have I felt myself so personally invested in a particular political fight than I am the impending battle over the nomination of Seventh Circuit appeals court judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
I suspect that women across the country, and women of faith in particular, feel similarly. Judging from the reactions of many of my female friends and the outpouring of support that I’ve witnessed on social media, Trump’s decision to nominate Barrett to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has struck a chord.
For Catholic mothers, Barrett’s nomination is a point of pride. Barrett has risen to the peak of her profession and has managed to do so while still prioritizing having a family. She has been married for about two decades to her husband, Jesse, whom she described in her speech accepting Trump’s nomination as “a superb and generous husband.” “For 21 years, Jesse has asked me every single morning what he can do for me that day,” Barrett said.
The Barretts are parents to seven children, two of whom they adopted from Haiti, and the youngest of whom, Benjamin, was born with Down syndrome. At an event at Notre Dame in the spring of 2019, Barrett talked a bit about her children, describing the choice to have a big family as the most important thing she and Jesse will ever do.
Of the time she and Jesse decided to adopt their son, John Peter — despite having recently had a biological child and finding out another was on the way — Barrett said: “I thought, when you think about the value of people and the value of life and what’s really most important, what you can pour yourself into, that raising children and bringing John Peter home were the things of the greatest value that I can do right then, rather than even teaching, being a law professor, which I was at the time. That was what was really most important.”
And of their son Benjamin, Barrett added, “Sometimes we see things that are very difficult or that are burdens, and Benjamin’s diagnosis definitely derailed us off what we thought life was going to look like, what we thought his life was going to look like. But in a way that we can’t really understand or appreciate but that we see unfold every day, it will be the most important thing that we do, probably.”
This is how countless women across the country think about the struggles and joys of raising a family and why, unlike Barrett, so many of them have chosen to stay home full time and devote themselves to that work. One can easily imagine how gratifying it is for those mothers to see a woman who values family as they do and who, in a sense, is representing them as she sits before the Senate seeking confirmation to the Supreme Court.
If confirmed, Barrett will be the only mother seated on the Court, and she will be the first woman in history to serve as a Supreme Court justice while also having school-aged children. That is a remarkable fact, inspiring both to Catholic mothers and to young women who feel a call to pursue their talents in the working world while also dedicating themselves to being a wife and mother.
Barrett is a rebuke not only to the notion that the political process rewards only those who are willing to compromise their values but also to the modern feminist dogma that marriage and children are most often an obstacle to women’s success.
Alexandra DeSanctis is a staff writer at National Review and a visiting fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
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