Ginsburg’s legacy paves way for Barrett

Ruth Bader Ginsburg actively fought against sexism for the entirety of her career. During her time with the ACLU she fought six landmark cases before the U.S. Supreme Court all focused on gender equality. She won five. 

After becoming a judge on the supreme court, Ginsburg became a strong voice in favor of the separation of church and state, gender equality, and the rights of workers. 

In 1996, Ginsburg wrote the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Virginia. This decision wrote that the Virginia Military Institute, which was state supported, couldn’t refuse to admit women. This set the precedent that state funded schools have to admit women. 

She also wrote many dissents, opposing opinions from the court decisions, one most notably concerning a 2007 case involving an abortion used later in a pregnancy. This case, Gonzales v. Carhart, upheld a law that banned the procedure which Ginsburg fervently opposed.  

Again in 2007, Ginsburg wrote a dissent on the case Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. In this case, Ginsburg’s dissent helped make strides towards equal pay. 

In the 2015 landmark case Obergefell v. Hodges, allowed the LGBTQ+ community the right to same sex marriage in a 5-4 ruling. Without Ginsburg, the outcome could have been very different. 

Ginsburg also pushed to protect pregnant women in the workplace, argued women should serve on juries, and helped to pave the way for the Equal Credit Opportunity Act just to name a few of her more notable achievements. Ginsburg’s legacy is long lasting and immeasurable. Although all political careers should always be critiqued, Ginsburg unquestionably made strides for women and the LGBTQ+ community that changed the United States forever. 

Photo courtesy of Flkr. Amy Connen Barrett stands with President Trump at her nomination announcement press conference.

What happens now?

Following the news of Ginsburg’s passing, many Americans are worried about what this means for their individual rights, such as: access to abortion under Roe v. Wade; birth control and healthcare under the Affordable Care Act; women’s right to vote.

To understand what this does and does not mean for Americans, it is important to understand the role of the Supreme Court.

Most importantly, the Supreme Court does not make laws. The justices serve only as guardians and interpreters of the Constitution, meaning they determine whether laws and executive acts are constitutional.

The Supreme Court Justices do not have the power to create laws. Therefore, the death of Ginsburg does not mean women will lose access to birth control or any right provided to citizens in the Constitution, including their right to vote.

As for the ongoing discussion surrounding Roe v. Wade being overturned, this is unlikely. Even in the case of an overwhelmingly conservative Supreme Court voting to overturn, abortion would not immediately be made illegal nationwide.

 It would simply allow individual states to decide their own laws on abortion rather than relying on federal ones. Given the negative reaction and swift rejection most states’ “Heartbeat Bills” have garnered, it is not likely abortion will be outlawed.

There is also great discourse surrounding the status of the ACA, also called Obamacare, which is scheduled to be brought before the Supreme Court in the coming months.

If President Trump’s nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, is approved by the Senate, six of the nine justices would be conservative Catholics. Liberal politicians are concerned that this many conservative justices will mean the end of the ACA and a more restrictive healthcare act being implemented in its place, though this is not guaranteed.

“I have no hostility to the ACA or any other law,” Barrett said during her confirmation hearings Tuesday.

Barrett declined to express her opinion on certain issues or offer any hints as to how she would rule in upcoming cases. She assured Senators she is capable of setting her personal religious and political beliefs aside when she decides cases.

“I have an agenda to stick to the rule of law and decide cases as they come,” she said.

Barrett’s confirmation hearings concluded on October 15, with the Senate Judiciary Committee scheduling a vote for Thursday at 1 p.m. The full Senate will begin debating Friday.

“We have the votes,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConell said.

In order for Barrett to be confirmed, she will have to be approved by a majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate, both of which Republicans control.

“We have the votes,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConell said.

Democratic senators objected to the proceedings and questioned the validity of moving forward with a nomination during an election and a global pandemic, arguing that the next president should choose Ginsburg’s replacement.

In order for the nomination to be postponed until after the election, two Republican Senators would have to vote against Barrett’s confirmation.

 In this case, there is a possibility of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden being given the opportunity to appoint the next justice if he were to win, in which case, the ACA may not be affected.

Interestingly, if the Senate votes to move forward with the nomination of Barrett only weeks before the election, they will be contradicting the precedent they set themselves in 2016 with President Barack Obama. 

In February of that year, Justice Antonin Scalia died and the Senate voted to disallow Obama from appointing another justice because it was an election year, despite being more than nine months from the actual election.

“In your hearts, you know that what’s happening here is not right. It’s not normal,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Thursday. “The real people eventually will judge us. History will haunt this raw exercise of political power.”

No matter who ends up taking the Supreme Court seat, we encourage everyone to stay hopeful, educate yourselves on the economic and social issues of today, and vote accordingly in November.