In an interview with CNN published on January 8, 86-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated that she no longer has pancreatic cancer. Ginsburg had previously been undergoing cancer treatment.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s health
In August 2019, it was announced that Ginsburg, one of the Supreme Court’s four liberal justices, had undergone treatment to remove a tumor in her pancreas. At the time, it was reported that the treatment had been successful, but this is the first time that the Justice has publicly confirmed that she is cancer-free.
This marks the fourth time Ginsburg has overcome a cancer diagnosis. She was also treated for cancer in 1999, 2009, and December 2018. She had also undergone treatment for pancreatic cancer in 2009.
Ginsburg had an unrelated health scare in November 2019 when a stomach bug resulted in her missing oral arguments. Later that same month she was hospitalized at John Hopkins in Baltimore for chills and a fever but was discharged the following day.
Over the past decade, Ginsburg has become a central figure in conversations about the future of the Supreme Court. Prior to her cancer treatment in December 2018, Ginsburg had never missed a day in court as a justice.
Ginsburg is the oldest justice currently serving on the court, but while she has said that she has no intention of retiring, her age and health concerns have led to much discussion over who might appoint her replacement.
The political fight for Supreme Court seats
The president nominates justices to the Supreme Court who must then be confirmed by the Senate.
In 2016, President Barack Obama’s final full year in office, Justice Antonin Scalia died. Obama, a Democrat, nominated Merrick Garland to replace Scalia, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, refused to hold confirmation hearings.
McConnell claimed that, as it was an election year, “the American people should have a say in the court’s direction.” Donald Trump, a Republican, won the presidency in 2016 and nominated a conservative justice, Neil Gorsuch, to replace Scalia the following year. Gorsuch was subsequently confirmed by the Senate.
The Senate confirmed Trump’s second nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, in 2018. Trump’s lifetime appointments of conservative justices have served to push the court to the right.
Despite his previous statement, McConnell said that if a vacancy occurred in 2020, he would confirm Trump’s nominee, despite 2020 being an election year.
RBG is a cultural icon
Justice Ginsburg’s position as an important liberal justice on the Supreme Court has turned her into an icon for liberals. Her popularity and resilience in the face of illness has inspired countless Internet memes, a book, a documentary, and a recent feature film. Ginsburg’s fans often refer to her affectionately as “The Notorious RBG.”
In 2018, two separate movies were released that chronicled Ginsburg’s life and career. The first was an Oscar-nominated documentary entitled “RBG”. The second, “On the Basis of Sex”, was a dramatization starring Felicity Jones that focused on Ginsburg’s early career, in particular a landmark case involving sex-based discrimination.