Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg arrives for President Obama's first address to Congress on Feb. 24, 2009. (L.A. Times pool photo)
Stockdale High School

Opinion: The legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

“Today is a sobering day for our nation because we have lost a legend. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a true American hero who believed that the rule of law should make us all more equal,” Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, President of California Young Democrats, said in his email honoring Justice Ginsburg. 

RBG’s passing today is a devastating blow to most Democrats. Justice Ginsburg, who passed at 87, was nominated by President Clinton in 1993 and has served as a Supreme Court Justice since then. Her presence in the highest courts of America reassured millions of Americans who faced discrimination on the basis of gender, and other civil issues, that someone was fighting for them.

As the second woman to serve in the Supreme Court, she ensured newer policies were constitutional.

“Our Nation has lost a jurist of historic stature. We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her — a tireless and resolute champion of justice,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement. 

So why exactly did thousands of Americans rely on a woman who had already battled two bouts of cancer to uphold their basic rights, and establish justice? 

RBG was known for her legal brilliance and has been the driving factor behind the results of monumental supreme court cases. She was an advocate for reproductive rights, equal pay and LGBTQ rights

In Stenberg v. Carhart, citing Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Ginsburg argued the Nebraskan law banning partial-birth abortion did not seek to protect the lives of women and doctors should not be able to lose their licenses for performing the procedure, despite any health condition the mother is in. The law was ultimately struck down by the court.

“A state regulation that ‘has the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus, violates the Constitution […] Such an obstacle exists if the State stops a woman from choosing the procedure her doctor reasonably believes will best protect the woman in [the] exercise of [her] constitutional liberty,” Ginsburg wrote.

With this 2000 ruling, Ginsburg had clearly established an undying reputation as a women’s health advocate, something the courts would continue to test. 

In Safford Unified School District v. Redding, a 2003 ruling, where the Supreme Court ruled the Fourth Amendment rights of a 13-year-old girl were violated after the assistant principal in Safford, Arizona subjected her to a strip search, after being accused of dealing out prescription and over-the-counter medication. The search resulted in nothing. Ginsburg called the treatment “abusive.”

Expressing frustration with her male counterparts in the court minimizing the girl’s experience, she said: “They have never been a 13-year-old girl. […] It’s a very sensitive age for a girl. I didn’t think that my colleagues, some of them, quite understood.”

Despite establishing herself as someone who protected our basic, inalienable rights, her most memorable cases were surprisingly dissent. In numerous cases, Ginsburg’s simple, yet powerful, “I dissent” was enough to show the court her displeasure in her colleagues’ behaviors. 

A clear example of this would be Gonzales v. Carhart, the 2007 ruling that upheld Congress’ Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. Opposing the ban, many argued an “intact dilation and extraction” procedure was the safest way to avoid damaging a woman’s uterus while ending a late-term pregnancy. This was the first time the court had banned a specific abortion method and did not include an exception for the woman’s health, according to CNBC.

Justice Kennedy, speaking for the majority 5-4 decision, claimed Congress had a right to step in since doctors had yet to reach a consensus of the necessity of the procedure in regards to women’s health.

Firing back, the “Notorious RBG” later wrote the majority ruling “tolerates, indeed applauds, federal intervention to ban nationwide a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. […] In candor, the Act, and the Court’s defense of it, cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away at a right declared again and again by this Court — and with increasing comprehension of its centrality to women’s lives.” 

She also wrote: “The court deprives women of the right to make an autonomous choice, even at the expense of their safety. This way of thinking reflects ancient notions about women’s place in the family and under the Constitution — ideas that have long since been discredited.”

This would not be the last time she would stand up against these discredited ideas. 

With these rulings and many more, Ruther Bader Ginsburg stole her way into the hearts of thousands of democrats across the nation. 

With a vacancy in the Supreme Court, the responsibility of finding a replacement falls on the shoulders of President Trump. Unlike in 2016, when Justice Scalia died, senate majority Mitch McConnell has changed his rules for backing whoever Trump’s nominee will be. In 2016, when Scalia died, McConnel refused to allow Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, to fill the vacancy. Now, he, along with the rest of the senate, are singing a different tune.

However, Joe Biden, along with former President Obama, urge a delay in filling the vacancy. In fact, as reported by NPR per her granddaughter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s last wish on her deathbed, was simply “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

If the Republican Senate jumps on filling this vacancy, it would most likely mean the undoing of everything Justice Ginsburg ever stood for.