by Daniella DeMauro
Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the second woman Supreme Court Justice, died at age 87 on September 18 2020. Not only was she the second woman to serve on the court, an accomplishment on its own, but she was also an activist judge. She fought against many conservative ideals, facing much adversity to get where she was in her career. Ms. Ginsberg supported women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and fought for equality for all Americans.
Starting her career, she was questioned and denied work for being a woman in a profession that was largely dominated by men. She was well qualified for law work, highly recommended from professors in both Harvard and Colombia, but still many judges denied her work due to her gender. Her professor from Colombia, Gerald Gunther, threatened a judge saying he would not ever recommend another Colombia student to Judge Edmund Palmieri if he did not accept Ginsberg. Needless to say, she got a job as a law clerk soon after. She was still paid less than her male counterparts and took the time to write about the gender discrimination that she experienced in the law world.
During her time in the Supreme Court, Ms. Ginsberg helped pass many laws protecting the rights of every person that had previously been restricted based on gender. She helped pass laws forbidding job discrimination based on gender or reproductive choices, dictating that state-funded schools cannot deny admittance based on gender, and supporting abortion for women arguing it was a women’s right to decide what she does with her body. Ms. Ginsburg also supported a law that ensured men were entitled to the same Social Security and caregiving rights as women. Ms. Ginsberg always supported the LGBTQ+ community in decisions regarding their rights.
Throughout the past few decades, Ms. Ginsberg had health scares and hardships in her life. Two decades ago she was diagnosed with colon cancer, which took her twenty years to finally beat. She had traces of pancreatic cancer and lung cancer as well. The cancer that spread was cancer in her pancreas, ultimately taking her life. In 2010, her husband died, and people who worked with her said she started working harder than ever before. During Obama’s presidency, she was offered the idea of retiring, to which she declined. She felt it was nobody else’s place to dictate when she should end her career that she had worked so hard for throughout her life. This decision was a risk because it left the choosing of a new judge in the hands of whomever the next president would be. This turned out to be the conservative President Trump. Many felt that Ms. Ginsburg’s decision not to retire during the Obama presidency was a self-centered decision; though it was ultimately her choice regarding her life’s work. Ginsburg’s dying wish, shared by her granddaughter, was to not have her seat filled until the next President is elected this fall. However, this final wish has been ignored and President Trump has appointed a nominee.
The new nominee for her position is Judge Amy Coney Barrett, and her conservative views are a major threat to the work Ginsberg has achieved throughout her career. Ms. Barrett is a conservative and votes conservatively during many of her cases. She is extremely opposed to abortion: Ms. Barrett does not think the early pregnancy abortions would change but wants to rethink restrictions on later pregnancy abortions. She supports lessening some restriction on guns but putting more restrictions on immigration. She said she’d have overturned a decision stopping the presidential administration from denying green cards based on if the person was in need of public assistance. Many of Ms. Barrett’s beliefs are in direct opposition to the work that Ruth Bader Ginsberg has done during her time as a Supreme Court judge.
Ms. Ginsburg became the first woman in American history to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol building following her death in September 2020. She worked tirelessly throughout her career to advocate for equality regardless of the person’s beliefs, gender, race, or sexual orientation. Her successor, Amy Coney Barret, has opposite ideals than Ginsberg, but if she is ultimately appointed for the seat in Court, her ruling on Supreme Court cases will be the true determination of her beliefs. Ruth Bader Ginsberg was a strong woman who challenged the traditional views of society her whole life. Hopefully, Ms. Ginsburg’s work will live on.