There were two things about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that I deeply admired. One was his relentless defense of abortion and reproductive rights, and the other was his excellent plank form in the gym. Balancing your body weight on your hands and feet for 30-60 seconds is a challenge at any age, let alone 80+.
But, then, fighting for abortion rights and holding a plank rely on some of the same skills – tenacity and the will to overcome fatigue.
Reproductive rights have been under constant attack for nearly half a century since the court ruled that women have a right to a legal and safe abortion in Roe v. Wade — and Ginsburg has never given up the fight.
In what would be her final vote on a reproductive rights case, she and Judge Sonia Sotomayor were the only holdouts to a Supreme Court ruling in July that would allow nearly all companies to opt out of providing mandated birth control insurance. by the government if the employers had any. some sort of moral or religious objection to it.
Ginsburg wrote a meticulous and lengthy dissent, noting that tens of thousands of women would likely lose contraceptive coverage. She also noted that the exemptions granted by Congress were never intended to shield companies from obligations imposed by the government on the basis of rarefied religious belief. She cited, among other things, the 1986 court decision in Bowen v. Roy, in which “a Native American father asserted a sincere religious belief that his daughter’s spirit would be harmed by the government’s use of his social security number. No shock, the court ruled against the father. And, as Ginsburg noted, “a religious adherent may be entitled to religious accommodation in respect to his own conduct,” but he has no right to coerce others into conforming to his conduct.
In a landmark 2016 ruling overturning an onerous Texas law (HB 2) that required abortion clinics to be outfitted like outpatient surgical centers and staffed by physicians with hospital admitting privileges (apparently to protect the Women’s Health), Ginsburg’s concurring opinion noted the extraordinary safety record of abortions and the lack of similar requirements for much more dangerous procedures. She called the Texas law for the sham it was, writing, “It is beyond rational belief that HB 2 could truly protect women’s health, and certain that the law would ‘simply make it harder for them to obtain abortions”. ”
“Even over the past 13 years, Judge Ginsburg has had to explain over and over again how pregnancy discrimination is sex discrimination,” Nancy Northup, executive director of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement late Friday. .
The power Ginsburg wielded over the Supreme Court to make women’s rights a legal reality — and the way she did it in a simple, forceful way without bloviation — transformed her into a cultural icon defying the age 87 for women and girls, including the little ones who donned her frilly white collar, dress and glasses as a Halloween costume. Part of that mystique likely came from the contrast between her petite stature as a woman and her position as a judicial warrior. Her cult status was assured when she was crowned with the nickname, Notorious RBG, appropriated from the late Notorious BIG – a massive bass-voiced rapper who was in every way her physical opposite.
Between her work ethic on the court and her workouts in the gym, I truly, foolishly, believed her to be nearly indestructible. Upon learning earlier this summer of her trip to the hospital for a bile duct stent cleaning and the metastatic spread of one of the many cancers she had miraculously survived, I thought to myself, well…she will go well, isn’t it? She will certainly survive beyond the administration of a president she did not like at all.
His dying wish was not to be replaced until a new president was installed. There are so many aspects of that wish that I hope to fulfill for Ginsburg and the rest of us.
It’s not just that his death leaves the court with just three staunch abortion-rights supporters, it’s that it leaves the possibility that its seat could be filled by an abortion opponent who will ignore all three rulings. Supreme Court’s landmark abortion rights ruling and seek ways to dismantle Roe v. Wade’s landmark decision, which would deprive women of what the court has established as a constitutional right to a safe and legal abortion. I hope that day doesn’t come, but if it does, it will be a dark day for civil rights.