Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday at 87 years old. Her death was caused by complications of metastatic pancreas cancer and she passed at home, surrounded by her family.
A pioneer in gender equality, Ginsberg was one of just nine women in her class when she attended law school in the 1950s as a new mother.
She entered Harvard Law as a mother to a 14-month-old daughter and was an incredible student, going on to Columbia Law School after her husband's career took her family to New York.
From those earliest days at Harvard, Ginsberg was a pioneer who proved that motherhood should not be an impediment to a meaningful career. Unwilling to tolerate sexism in any form, Ginsberg ruled that state-funded schools must admit women and her dissent in a fair pay case (and call for congressional action) paved the way for equal pay for equal work. Ginsberg was an icon and a beacon of hope for millions.
She carved a path for herself in law despite the challenges that stood in her way and the job offers that did not come as easily to her as they did to male peers. She campaigned for equal pay in the 1960s after she discovered her male colleagues at Rutgers Law School were earning more than her.
Ginsburg overcame every barrier in her path and proved that women and mothers belong everywhere laws are taught and made, from university campuses to the Supreme Court.
The second woman ever appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993 (and one of only two supreme court justices to ever give birth), Ginsberg fought tirelessly against sex discrimination and for women's rights. She made her stance on abortion rights clear from day one, encoring them during her confirmation hearing.
"It is essential to woman's equality with man that she be the decision maker, that her choice be controlling," Ginsburg said. "If you impose restraints that impede her choice, you are disadvantaging her because of her sex."
Years later, in 2009, she addressed her view on abortion rights, summarizing to the New York Times: "[t]he basic thing is that the government has no business making that choice for a woman".
A legal scholar of the highest order, Ginsburg was still supporting abortion rights in 2020, but had previously criticized the decision made in the landmark Roe v. Wade case as she would have preferred multiple decisions as a way of building up a stronger defense of abortion rights. She believed that instead, Roe allowed "opponents of access to abortion a target to aim at relentlessly."
Ginsberg relentlessly defended abortion rights, even as she battled cancer. In March this year, CNN reported that for "over an hour, Ginsburg, the leading liberal on the bench, engaged in a high stakes constitutional version of whack-a-mole, taking down arguments put forward by supporters of a Louisiana abortion access law that requires doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital."
She was tenacious, strong, determined—and she was a mother. She is remembered by her two children Jane Carol Ginsburg and James Steven Ginsburg, as well as her four grandchildren, two step-grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Her family, her country and her colleagues on the Supreme Court will never forget her.
"Our nation has lost a justice of historic stature," Chief Justice John Roberts said Friday. "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."
A vacant seat
Even before her death the subject of whether her seat on the Supreme Court should be filed or remain vacant until after the upcoming election was hotly debated in Washington and across the nation.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D) opposed the Republican plan for President Donald Trump to nominate a replacement who would be confirmed by the Republican-led Senate before the upcoming election. Hours after Ginsberg's death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell confirmed that "President Trump's nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate."
According to NPR, Ginsburg herself dictated the following statement to her granddaughter Clara Spera just days before her death: "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."