Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court justice and cultural icon, died Sept. 18 from complications of pancreatic cancer. She was 87.
Ginsburg was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, only the second woman to ever fill that role, after serving in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Prior to that, she had co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU and argued several gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court.
Ginsburg’s life and work was the subject of the 2018 movie On the Basis of Sex, propelling her popularity among younger generations and earning her the nickname ‘The Notorious RBG’.
“The Notorious RBG will always be a symbol of strength to do what you believe is right,” Drake student Karin Berdahl said. “She is a role model for all people to do what is right, even in the face of ignorance and discrimination.”
Berdahl described Ginsburg as a role model, specifically to women seeking careers in male-dominated fields.
“She affected the country in many many positive ways,” Berdahl said. “First of all, she was a woman taking on so many levels of discrimination to do the job that defines American life. Secondly, she did so with grace, power and strength. She gave women a role model to point at and say, ‘I can do things like that too’. I don’t have the words to describe the amount of voice and hope that she gave to women throughout her transformative lifetime.”
Drake student Bardha Ahmedi, a Law, Politics and Society major, said Ginsburg paved the way for women in law.
“I can only speak for myself, but she meant a lot to me. She was just this formidable lady who knew what she was talking about and was good at it,” Ahmedi said. “She paved the way for so many women in the legal world, in America in general. She had a hand in bettering conditions for women in the workplace long before she was a judge.”
Ahmedi said her initial reaction to the news of Ginsburg’s death was overwhelming.
“My roommate told me immediately when the story broke,” Ahmedi said. “[It was] deep anguish, along with a healthy dose of panic. I just laid in my bed in the dark for a solid hour trying not to cry.”
Berdahl said she was cleaning her kitchen when she got a BBC notification on her phone announcing Ginsburg’s death.
“I started to cry. I knew immediately that all sense of decorum would go out the window in nominating and confirming a new justice, that the Trump administration would trample the country’s mourning of this incredible woman to try to do something that his voter base might like,” Berdahl said. “I knew that the Lame Duck session wasn’t going to apply to Trump and that Republicans wouldn’t stop to think about the consequences of their actions. I knew that Mitch McConnell would go back on his word regarding new justices in an election year.”
Berdahl said she believes that a new justice should not have been nominated until after the election.
“A new justice should not be nominated or confirmed until after the election,” Berdahl said. “I will 100 percent admit to a bias but it is a well founded one. I am a Democrat. I am bisexual. I am pro-choice. Our country needs to move forward and do things that help people, to keep them safe, and offer whatever is needed to maintain the freedom of people to be themselves. I fear a conservative justice would have enough power to make sure that those steps are not taken, and reverse the ones already in place. I fear that world.”
Ahmedi said she believes there is not enough time to nominate and confirm a justice in a responsible manner before the election.
“I want it to wait. Even discounting all the politics, there’s honestly not enough time to responsibly pick a candidate,” Ahmedi said. “We’ve got less than 40 days until election day, and the average amount of time for the nomination process is around sixty days or so. You shouldn’t treat this stuff like a race, not when the consequences are this serious.”
According to Berdahl, the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg should be seen as a call to action for all Americans.
“The loss of RBG is another horrific thing to add to the list of terrible that is 2020. As much as I adore her and am so grateful for her, the amount of pressure that was on her was not fair,” Berdahl said. “To have the country be in such a state that one high-powered woman is the only thing seemingly stopping it from tipping over the edge is in one way extremely awe-inspiring, and in another, objectively horrifying. To be in such a state of turmoil over human rights is not a sustainable state of being, and the deciding factor of such issues should not fall onto one person. I have called my senators about this issue and urge others to do the same.”