Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy deserves better

Editorial Board

The United States Senate will vote to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett Oct. 26 to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated upon Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death Sept. 18. We object.

The vote takes place under the watchful eye and tactical expertise of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The move is a complete turnaround of his stance four years ago, when he maneuvered to block then President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland, from receiving a vote in the Senate. His reason was that Supreme Court nominations should not be made during an election year.

That strategy proved successful: Garland does not sit on the Supreme Court. And so too has the reversal proved fruitful: McConnell has been able to gather the votes needed to confirm Barrett. 

It cannot be overstated that when Barrett is confirmed, a drastic shift will befall the Supreme Court as Barrett and Ginsburg have vastly different interpretations of the Constitution that have guided their judicial rulings. Where Ginsburg saw the document as “living,” something that could adapt and grow with society, Barrett sees the document as an original text, to be read only in the eyes of the founders who wrote it more than 200 years ago. Both the nomination of a judicial opposite and the rushed, hypocritical jockeying of McConnell to fill her seat, not only dishonors the late Justice Ginsburg, it demeans the American public and degrades the legitimacy of our governmental institutions.

Ginsburg deserved better than McConnell’s announcement that he would vote to fill her seat a mere two hours after news broke of her death. She deserved better than the immediate strategizing of conservative judicial organizations lobbying their hand-picked replacements. And she deserved better than the rapid careening her legacy as a lifetime champion of equal rights took toward the single issue of abortion. 

Ginsburg was not a single-issue jurist who dedicated her life to abortion advocacy and to reduce her career to such narrow confines, diminishes her contributions to the field of law and her dedication toward defending the rights of every man, woman and child. Such misconceptions are a great disservice to a judge who was not only a champion of women’s rights, but a champion for everyone who found themselves unfairly discriminated against by a Constitution whose own language promised equality, due process, and equal protection under the law.

Just as she didn’t believe that the Constitution should be manipulated to enact laws that limited and restricted the opportunities of women solely because of their gender, the same held true for men. In an interview, she once stated, “I think that men and women, shoulder to shoulder, will work together to make this a better world. Just as I don’t think that men are the superior sex, neither do I think women are. I think that it is great that we are beginning to use the talents of all of the people, in all walks of life, and that we no longer have the closed doors that we once had.”

It’s accurate to say that Ginsburg was a staunch defender of reproductive rights and a woman’s right to choose and sadly, this intricate and more full-scale advocation gets wrapped up in the rigid and compressed narratives surrounding abortion. Within these narratives, the right to choose is typically framed as a single option: the choice to terminate a pregnancy.

But this willfully ignores that choosing to proceed with a pregnancy and to have a child, is just as equally a choice. RBG was an advocate for choice, no matter which choice was made, and to deny a woman the right to choose, to have autonomy over her own body and to have access to safe and affordable healthcare, was antithetical to the values and rights written into the Constitution.

During her confirmation hearings before the Senate in 1993, RBG spoke of this issue; “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. When the government controls that decision for her, she is treated as less than a full adult human responsible for her own choices.” 

Taking RBG’s defense of a woman’s right to choose and making it about abortion is a calculated decision by those determined to see Roe v. Wade overturned. More concerning is that the topic of abortion is used as a sort of campaign hype machine to secure votes from those who are sincerely pro right-to-life, even at the cost of infringement to other rights. The pace at which President Trump and Senate Republicans have moved to confirm RBG’s replacement on the nation’s highest court is reprehensible and a slap in the face to her history and legacy.

To the hasty nomination and vote to appoint Amy Coney Barrett and to the disingenuous and deceptive explanations that followed: 

We dissent.