In this episode of HJ Talks About Abuse, Alan Collins and Feleena Grosvenor pay tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg was a US Supreme Court Justice and she died on the 18thof September 2020, aged 87.
She was only the second women ever to serve as a justice at the US Supreme Court, a well-known advocate for gender equality and an outspoken advocate of LGBTQ rights.
She was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton and has heard a number of landmark cases.
One of the most significant cases Justice Ginsburg heard was Obergefell v Hodges. This was a case heard at the Supreme Court on 26 June 2015 and it related to two main questions; firstly whether states were required to license marriages between same-sex individuals and secondly if they were required to recognise same-sex marriages licensed out-of-state.
Justice Ginsburg sided with the majority which asserted that the right to marry is a fundamental right “inherent in the liberty of the person” and is therefore protected by the due process clause, which prohibits the states from depriving any person of “life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” Ultimately, the close connection between liberty and equality meant that the states could not deny any person the equal protection of the laws.
The 5-4 majority, including Justice Ginsburg, legalised same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
It is an unfortunate reality that over history, and even in the present day, that those who have a sexual orientation other than heterosexual can be targeted and abused and/or discriminated against for this reason. This case and the comments made of the Supreme Court were monumental and one of the many occasions where Justice Ginsburg showed her support for the LGBTQ community.
Another significant case, and one of the most controversial that Justice Ginsburg heard, wasWhole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt. This case was heard in 2016 and related to Texas’ Omnibus Abortion Bill (known widely as H.B.2) which imposed strict restrictions and requirements on abortion providers. The bill was argued to have the purpose of making the clinics harder to run in an affordable and accessible way.
The justices struck down the bill by a majority of 5-3 because H.B.2 had forced abortion care facilities to close which resulted in fewer available facilities which then resulted in women facing undue burdens such as travel time and cost when seeking abortions. This restriction of access to abortion care was found to be unconstitutional.
Justice Ginsburg was a part of the majority and although she did not write the official majority option, she made clear her views on the subject should it be raised in future. She made a powerful statement as follows:
“it is beyond rational belief that H.B.2 could genuinely protect the health of woman and certain that the law would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions… When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners… at a great risk to their health and safety…. Laws like H.B.2 that do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion, cannot survive judicial inspection.”