Pro-Abortion Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was back at the Supreme Court today for oral arguments after making no public appearance for months following another surgery.
The justice’s presence at Tuesday’s arguments was expected — the high court’s public information office announced Friday that Ginsburg would participate in a private conference among the justices to discuss pending petitions.
At 85, Ginsburg sometimes appears frail, moving at a slow shuffle with her head slumped at the shoulders. But her entrance in the courtroom Tuesday was unusually vigorous. She darted quickly to her seat beside Chief Justice John Roberts with her head aloft, cheeks locked in a broad smile.
As is often the case, Ginsburg asked the first question at Tuesday’s argument, pressing attorneys just moments after the proceedings began. Though she is usually a subdued presence — and sometimes almost inaudible — Ginsburg advanced her question Tuesday with strength and clarity.
All told, Ginsburg’s demeanor strongly suggested that she is aware of untoward speculation as to her health in recent weeks, which she sought to immediately dismiss as unfounded. The Daily Caller reported in January that “gingerly preparations” for another Supreme Court vacancy were underway at the White House and among conservative legal groups, in view of Ginsburg’s continued health struggles.
The justice has been seen twice publicly since the December procedure, called a pulmonary lobectomy, at the Sloan Kettering Memorial Cancer Center in New York. TMZ spotted Ginsburg Monday at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Virginia, where she told reporters that she is doing “just fine.”
The Trump Administration is preparing for Ginsburg to retire, though it appears the wait wil; continue.
Given her advancing age and health concerns, political observers on both sides are wondering whether or not Ginsburg will be able to continue doing her work on the high court. Because a situation could presented self soon where President Trump would need to make a third Supreme Court nomination, Trump Administration officials are already doing the legwork needed to prepare for such a possibility.
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The court was thought to be 5-4 pro-abortion at best before Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy retired. Pro-life Americans are hopeful that Justice Bret Kavanaugh could be the 5th vote needed to overturn Roe and once again allow states to protect unborn babies from abortions. But Justice Clarence Thomas is the only member to have public indicated he is wiling to overturn Roe. Whether Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Chief Justice John Roberts would join him is another question, although each justice has consistently sided with pro-life advocates on previous cases.
Should Ginsburg pass away or no longer be able to serve on the Supreme Court due to health concerns, a replacement justice would almost definitely shift the court in the pro-life direction.
If Ginsburg retires, the next battle could be even more vehement and divisive than the confirmation battle over Kavaaugh.
A reliable supporter of abortion on demand, Ginsburg is 85 years old. But during a public appearance, she told CNN she plans to stay on the court until she is 90.
“I’m now 85,” Ginsburg said. “My senior colleague, Justice John Paul Stevens, he stepped down when he was 90, so think I have about at least five more years.”
The Washington Examiner reports Ginsburg discussed her plans for retirement in New York City after a play about the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
She already has hired law clerks for the next two years, according to the report.
There has been speculation that Ginsburg might retire while President Donald Trump is in office, and open up the opportunity for Trump to appoint three conservative justices to the high court. However, Ginsburg has repeatedly stated that she will not retire while she still is able to serve.
Ginsburg is beloved by abortion activists because of her decisions on the high court since the 1990s. A new film, scheduled for release on Christmas, will glorify her liberal activism.
“A woman’s control of her own body, her choice whether and when to reproduce, it’s essential to women and it’s most basic for women’s health,” she once said.
In 2016, she was one of the five justices who sided with abortion activists in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which struck down Texas abortion clinic regulations.
In a rare interview with the New York Times in 2016, Ginsburg said laws should not deny a woman “her right to choose” to abort her unborn baby. She and four other justices ruled that these safety regulations were an “undue burden” on women’s access to abortion.