Before joining the United States Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was already defending the cause of women, but her death threatens one of the main feminist conquests: the right to abortion.
As soon as her death was announced at the age of 87 on Friday, women’s rights groups mourned the loss of “a giant of the law” and “a source of inspiration for millions of women”, while alarms went off.
“Tonight we honor her legacy, but tomorrow we will have to fight to preserve the ideals she has espoused throughout her life,” warned Alexis McGill Johnson, who chairs the powerful organization Planned Parenthood.
“Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an icon, a pioneer, a heroine, a legend” and her example “should inspire us in the difficult days to come,” said Shaunna Thomas, director of the feminist group UltraViolet.
The reasons for so much concern? The profile of those who succeed it. Republican President Donald Trump, who has constitutional authority to appoint Supreme Court judges, and who has already appointed two magistrates, said on Saturday that he would use this power “without delay”, certainly before the November 3 elections.
Many Republican lawmakers ask that Trump take action, and to serve voters in the religious right, he has already published a list of potentially highly conservative candidates, many of whom are openly hostile to voluntary termination of pregnancy.
– Woman, Jew and mother – Senator Tom Cotton, who appears on the list, does not hide his intentions: “It is time to end Roe v. Wade”, tweeted in reference to the court decision that, in 1973, legalized abortion in United States.
If one of them replaces Ginsburg, the higher court could validate the innumerable restrictions on abortion adopted by republican states, which she, a staunch supporter of the woman’s right to choose, managed to avoid with her vote.
Ginsburg was the second woman to enter the Supreme Court when President Bill Clinton appointed her in 1993. The lawyer started to fight for the women’s cause after her mother was prevented from studying and herself was rejected by New York offices when she was graduated from the prestigious Columbia University in 1959.
“I had three facts against me. One, I was Jewish. Two, I was a woman. But most seriously, I was the mother of a 4-year-old girl,” she said.
Then he fought against laws that, at the time, authorized discrimination “on the grounds of sex” in terms of wages, social benefits and hiring.
– “Uma fighter” – Between 1972 and 1978, she was a lawyer for the powerful civil rights association ACLU.
In 1975, he even defended a widower against a law that reserved assistance to the daycare center for women, an episode that inspired the film “Uma Mulher Excepcional”.
In the Supreme Federal Court, she fought for the equality of sexual minorities and other progressive causes, such as the defense of migrants and the environment, and was compared to the first black judge of the Court, Thurgood Marshall, a figure in the fight against racial segregation.
The news of his death led many young women to the court stairs.
Democratic Senator Kamala Harris, the first black woman to run for the United States’ vice presidency, also spoke on Saturday in the face of neoclassical construction in Washington.
Ginsburg “was one of my icons, a pioneer, a fighter,” she told AFP. “She was a woman in every sense of the word.”