By V. Susan Hutchinson
On September 18 American women, as well as the rest of the United States, were saddened by the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg fought against gender discrimination her entire life and was the one of the greatest advocates for women’s rights since Eleanor Roosevelt. Ruth Bader Ginsburg had much to say about gender equality, but this quote speaks volumes about her feeling of responsibility to those who would be coming behind her through the glass ceiling:
One thing that I did feel in law school was that if I flubbed, that I would be bringing down my entire sex. That you weren’t just failing for yourself, but people would say, ‘Well, I did expect it of a woman.’ … I was determined not to leave that impression.
Justice Ginsburg was the co-founder of the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 1972. When she took on gender discrimination cases, six of which she argued before the Supreme Court, Ginsburg was building the foundation for women’s rights for generations to come. She maintained that gender discrimination was just as harmful to men as to women.
The Fight Continues
It’s hard to believe it has only been 50 years since Justice Ginsburg co-founded the first law journal, Women’s Rights Law Reporter, to focus solely on women’s rights. Today, women continue their fight for equality in job promotions, hiring practices and salary. They are also fiercely fighting for the right to be free from sexual harassment in the workplace. Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated that the #MeToo movement was long overdue and would not be just a passing phase.
Advancements for women, however, should not be taken for granted.
Since his election in 2016, Donald Trump has initiated a “global war on women”, mainly as it relates to contraception and abortion rights. Although Justice Ginsburg had reservations about the structure of Roe v Wade, saying abortion rights should have been expressed as a matter of protection instead of privacy, she supported a woman’s right to choose.
We Need the Right Women on the Supreme Court
Since the landmark appointment of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981, there have only been three more women appointed to the Supreme Court; two of them, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, are still serving.
When asked when there will be enough women on the Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg replied “when there are nine.” But it’s not about how many, but whether these women, as well as all of the justices, will be fair and impartial, not advocates for any president’s political agenda. The purpose of the United States Supreme Court is to ensure equal justice for all and to interpret the Constitution.
On September 26, Donald Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is streamlining the confirmation process, which will start October 12.
Although the seat can be filled, Barrett will never come close to filling the shoes of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Barrett’s religious beliefs as well as her record as judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit are being carefully scrutinized. Donald Trump and the Republicans in the Senate think that replacing Justice Ginsburg with another woman will be an equivalent placement.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. The Republican party wants to have a woman who will decide cases along their party line, which includes discrimination not just against women, but LGBTQ, immigrants and minorities. Donald Trump also hopes she will be the deciding vote in his favor when he contests the November election and it goes to the Supreme Court.
Women who appreciate what Justice Ginsburg has done for them will see through this ruse and know that Amy Coney Barrett is no more than a symbolic gesture to women to get votes on November 3.
Don’t be fooled. There was only one Ruth Bader Ginsburg and she can only be replaced with a justice who understands that gender equality and women’s rights is a continual fight. The Supreme Court needs someone who is willing to progress toward Ginsburg’s vision of equality for all Americans.