The Death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the Future of the Supreme Court
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the pioneering lawyer who became a liberal hero and pop culture icon during her lengthy career on the U.S. Supreme Court, died today at the age of 87.
Ginsburg was already a towering figure in legal circles when President Bill Clinton appointed her to the Supreme Court in 1993. In 1972 Ginsburg co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), where she played a central role in the campaign to overturn a series of legal precedents that formally enshrined the inequality of women. Slowly but surely, Ginsburg and her allies moved the law in their preferred direction. She then capped off that remarkable career by becoming an accomplished federal judge.
Ginsburg capped off her judicial career by becoming a bona fide celebrity. Popularly known among her legions of fans as “Notorious RBG” (a play on the name of the late rapper Notorious BIG), Ginsburg has enjoyed a sort of rock star status in recent years, with her praises sung in books, articles, documentaries, movies, TV interviews, Saturday Night Live skits, and countless internet memes.
Given her massive popularity, especially among the younger progressive set, it is easy to forget that Ginsburg was not always a darling of the left. For example, Ginsburg once caused real discomfort in feminist legal circles by repeatedly criticizing Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling which recognized a woman’s constitutional right to have an abortion. The Court “ventured too far” in Roe when it “called into question the criminal abortion statutes of every state,” Ginsburg wrote in 1985. This “heavy-handed judicial intervention was difficult to justify,” she argued, “and appears to have provoked, not resolved, conflict.”
What is more, Ginsburg insisted, Roe itself stood on dubious legal foundatio
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