When I first heard about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s (RBG) death, I was stunned. I knew this day would come, but in my mind, she was invincible and therefore she couldn’t die. Of course, I knew she wasn’t the immortal and perfect justice that a lot of people made her out to be, but she accomplished so much for women in her time. Women only recently gained the right to open their own credit card or apply for a loan on their own, all due to RBG. So while I am saddened by her death, it also makes me worried for women’s rights in the future.
We should never have had to depend on an 87-year-old woman for our rights as humans; however, that was the reality. She fought for women, racial and LGBTQ+ equality, and for vulnerable communities—all of whom are now worried, rightfully so, for their rights in the near future.
It was Ginsburg’s dying wish that she would not be replaced before a new president is elected, but with the Trump administration and Senate Republicans pushing for a quick nomination before the end of the president’s term, there is fear in the air. In 2016 when Justice Scalia died, President Obama’s nomination for a new justice was blocked by the Republican Party in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell claimed that it would be unjust to put a new justice on the Supreme Court before the election, but clearly, he’s a hypocrite for doing the opposite in a different election year.
Despite the fact that justices are supposed to be free of political pressures, if Trump’s nominee is appointed to the Supreme Court, there would be a conservative majority on the bench. Furthermore, with Trump’s list of nominees advocating for the overturn of Roe v. Wade, and one of his picks, Amy Coney Barett, who lets her Catholic faith dictate her decisions, women’s rights and the separation of church and state are on the line.
When Justice Brett Kavanaugh was in the process of being nominated for the Supreme Court, he also advocated for “pro-life.” However, like many other justices and judges, advocating for “pro-life” is not necessarily synonymous with the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Overturning a monumental precedent in the American judicial system is extremely complicated and difficult to do. Kavanaugh recognized this challenge, and despite his stance on the issue, has said that he won’t overturn Roe v. Wade. However, if a new justice is appointed before the election, I believe they will try to overturn this precedent.
Even if Roe v. Wade remains, a third judicial nomination by Trump will slant the Supreme Court in a 6-3 conservative favor. Furthermore, Supreme Court justices are appointed for life, so this 6-3 conservative bench will be around for a majority of our lives.
There has been some discussion, even before the death of Ginsburg, about the terms served by Supreme Court justices. When the judicial branch of the United States was created, the average life-long appointment meant a 15 to 20 year term; however, with advancement of medicine in the past 50 years, more justices are now serving upward of 40 years. As such, there are proposals circulating the internet that Supreme Court justices should serve a maximum amount of 18 years. Each president would then get to appoint at least one nomination of their choice to the Supreme Court, and justices like Ginsburg would be allowed a more dignified death than they are allowed today. Her unprecedented death resulted in political disarray, and rather than resting during her last days, she was worried about her successor.
Ginsburg, or “Notorious RBG,” was an icon. She not only championed for the rights of all people, but rose to the top of her field facing adversity. RBG was one of the only women in her law school, attended her husband’s law classes when he had cancer, fought cancer multiple times herself and much more—she truly has earned her legacy.
Ginsburg shouldn’t have had to worry about her replacement on her deathbed, and we shouldn’t have to hinge our rights on a single woman’s life, but we do. Until we start addressing our unjust system, we will continue to fight harder than we should to make women’s rights all human rights.