“The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life – to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself.” - Ruth Bader Ginsburg
On Friday, September 18, the country learned of the death of Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. A long-time champion of gender equality and reproductive rights, Ginsburg spent her career fighting for marginalized groups. She wrote the deciding opinion on important equal rights cases and was famous for her scathing dissents, earning her the moniker "Notorious RBG".
As General Counsel for the ACLU, Ginsburg argued more than 300 gender discrimination cases. Six of those were before the Supreme Court including Frontiero v. Richardson, in which she used the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law to argue that sex-based distinctions are equally harmful to men and women, establishing precedence that differential treatment based on gender is inherently harmful to all.
In 1993 President Bill Clinton appointed Ginsburg as Associate Justice to the Supreme Court. Three years after Ginsburg joined the courts, she wrote the deciding opinion in United States v. Virginia, requiring the state-funded Virginia Military Institute to accept women for admission. The case marked a turning point for gender equality, doing more than any before it to establish equality as a constitutional norm.
In 2014, Ginsburg dissented in the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby Stores in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores. The case found that for-profit companies cannot be required to pay for certain types of contraceptives for their employees. Ginsburg wrote that the court had “ventured into a minefield” and that the ruling would “disadvantage employees who didn’t share their employer’s religious beliefs.”
In Obergefell v. Hodges in 2014 her comments during oral arguments contributed to the Court’s 5-4 ruling in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. “Marriage today is not what it was under the common law tradition, under the civil law tradition,” Ginsburg said. “Marriage was a relationship of a dominant male to a subordinate female that ended as a result of this court’s decision in 1982 when Louisiana’s Head and Master Rule was struck down. Would that be a choice that states should [still] be allowed to have? To cling to marriage the way it once was?"
In 2016, she voted to strike down H.B. 2 in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, overturning restrictions on abortion providers that required doctors performing procedures to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and that clinics meet the same standards as outpatient surgical centers. The decision was an important win for choice, preventing states from regulating clinics out of existence-–and it set the precedent for the decision in the recent case in Louisiana this summer, which overturned similar requirements.
It is no wonder that those who believe in gender equality and reproductive rights are concerned after her death. Not only have we lost a giant in women’s rights, Ginsburg’s death heightens the threats to important protections established by Roe v. Wade and the Affordable Care Act. President Trump is unlikely to choose a new Justice who will offer the same level of intelligence and passion for reproductive freedom.
In this uncertain and heartbreaking moment, MSI United States is more committed than ever to ensuring that every woman can control her own body and pursue her dreams. No matter what, our courageous providers will continue providing high-quality reproducive healthcare to women who need it.
Advocates for choice have important fights ahead, and we stand in solidarity with everyone who works to carry on Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy.