I dissent: do not replace RBG

Graphic by Emma Liu ’22/Staff

In the weeks following Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing, much of the nation has been in a state of mourning. The loss of the Supreme Court’s former liberal wing leader has been incredibly saddening for her supporters, and deeply disturbing for those concerned about the future of our country. In her 87 years of life, Ginsburg served as a towering presence on the Supreme Court, a trailblazer for women’s rights, and above all, a role model for so many young people. Her dying wish, as conveyed by her granddaughter, was that she should “not be replaced until a new president is installed.” In order to properly cherish and advance Ginsburg’s contributions to American democracy, it is critical that the American people and their elected representatives in Congress honor this wish.

Ginsburg fought against discrimination throughout her entire life. She was one of only nine women in her year at Harvard Law School and one of less than twenty female law professors in the country. In the 1970s, she began practicing law and won five discrimination cases before the Supreme Court as the general counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Women’s Rights Project. During her incumbency on America’s highest court, Ginsburg was similarly unrelenting in her fight for gender equality, defending policies which paved the way for generations of women to come. In her thirteen years as a justice, she helped strike down laws which allowed public colleges to bar women from admission, judges to exclude women from juries, and employers to fire women for their pregnancy. She also became known for the precedents she set through her dissents, adamantly defending voting and reproductive rights and affirmative action.

Regardless of what one thinks about Ginsburg’s beliefs, her fans, adversaries, and critics alike cannot ignore the huge strides she made to advance the rights of American citizens. The victories Ginsburg championed on the Court are invaluable to many of our nation’s most vulnerable, and are currently being jeopardized by the Republican Party’s determination to fill Ginsburg’s empty seat.

If the ultra-conservative Amy Coney Barrett is appointed to the Court, women whose rights were defended by Ginsburg will suffer. As a former member of the highly criticized pro-life People of Praise organization, Barrett has expressed a firm conviction that abortion is “always immoral.” According to reporter Sophie McBain, there are currently seventeen abortion cases one step away from reaching the Supreme Court. Should Barrett be appointed in the next month, she will almost certainly rule against abortion rights in each of these cases, stopping only when the landmark Roe v. Wade case is overturned. Despite the Trump administration’s effort to paint Barrett as a “feminist icon” worthy of filling Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat, the truth is that Barrett represents everything that Ginsburg fought so hard against. As Brown University professor Leigh Gilmore articulated, “replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a woman who is anti-feminist is just as cynical as replacing civil rights titan Thurgood Marshall with a Clarence Thomas, a Black nominee who was avowedly hostile to affirmative action.”

Moreover, the effects of Barrett’s appointment will extend far beyond mere restriction of reproductive rights. In her past rulings as a federal judge, Barrett has defended a rigid, narrow interpretation of the Constitution that has been used to hold back civil rights advances, place more power in the hands of the wealthy, and overturn regulations meant to help combat climate change. In terms of healthcare, Barrett has gone on record arguing that courts should invalidate the Affordable Care Act (ACA). According to The New York Times, her determination to vote against the ACA would result in 23 million Americans losing their healthcare coverage in the middle of a still-raging pandemic—ironic for a woman who claims to be “pro-life.” Many of Barrett’s projected rulings in areas like environmental law, Second Amendment rights, and LGBTQ+ protections promise to be similarly detrimental to marginalized Americans, disproportionately impacting the people who need her protection the most.

It has been said that the road to power is paved with hypocrisy. This truth has never been more evident than it is today, with Senate Republicans determined to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat before the November election. Mitch McConnell’s effort to appoint Barrett to the Court is a blatant power grab, designed to entrench conservative power for decades to come. When McConnell denied a Senate hearing to Merrick Garland, President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, he established a precedent he ought to live by today. His refusal to abide by his own precedent, despite the fact that only 39 percent of Americans approve of his decision to replace Ginsburg so promptly, has revealed the extent of the Republican party’s illegitimacy.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg spent her whole life fighting against double standards. It would thus be a disgrace to her legacy for Republicans to embrace a double standard in an effort to replace her. Throughout her time on the Supreme Court, Ginsburg fought ceaselessly to protect the rights of the American people and to advance the scope of American democracy. As she was fond of saying, “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.” To ensure that Ginsburg’s battle for equality was not fought in vain, we must use this opportunity to take a step forward, not a step back.