Supreme Court Justice and perfect human being Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 81 years old and, to reiterate, not planning on retiring any time soon. That's partly because she does a military workout to keep herself in shape, and partly because she can't think of another person who could do her job as well as she does it. Lean In, RBG.
In an interview with The New Republic's Jeffrey Rosen, RBG divulges that she's always worked out to maintain her health and vitality, confessing that in the '80s and '90s she even got swept into the Jazzercise craze. But lately, she's been all about what she calls the Canadian Air Force exercises, stretching and warm ups that she's done almost every day for years, in addition to working out with a trainer twice a week (she shares a trainer with fellow Justice Elena Kagan, who boxes "to take out [her] frustrations").
And, at 81, her continued vigorous presence in the judicial system is more important than ever. Rosen asks whether she believes that a future court — possibly a more conservative court — will overturn Roe v. Wade, allowing states to ban abortion procedures. While it's a fear for many liberals, Ginsburg doesn't see it happening, as she believes that the Court will defer to precedent. But, if by some bizarre turn of events, abortion access is further restricted by court action, Justice Ginsburg notes that the women who are most deeply affected will be the ones who can't afford to travel for the procedure.
It would be bad for non-affluent women. If we imagine the worst-case scenario, with Roe v. Wade overruled, there would remain many states that would not go back to the way it once was. What that means is any woman who has the wherewithal to travel, to take a plane, to take a train to a state that provides access to abortion, that woman will never have a problem. It doesn't matter what Congress or the state legislatures do, there will be other states that provide this facility, and women will have access to it if they can pay for it. Women who can't pay are the only women who would be affected.
How could you trust legislatures in view of the restrictions states are imposing? Think of the Texas legislation that would put most clinics out of business. The courts can't be trusted either. Think of the Carhart decision 10 or going way back to the two decisions that denied Medicaid coverage for abortion. I don't see this as a question of courts versus legislatures. In my view, both have been moving in the wrong direction. It will take people who care about poor women. The irony and tragedy is any woman of means can have a safe abortion somewhere in the United States. But women lacking the wherewithal to travel can't. There is no big constituency out there concerned about access restrictions on poor women.
Justice Ginsburg's point that overturning or rolling back Roe would only make abortion unreachable to women who can't afford to travel for the procedure is a subtext I've seen in play in the GOP's recent outreach to women. The right is banking on centrist, pro-choice women of means and mobility choosing to the issue of abortion in favor of their own short-term economic self-interest, because centrist, pro-choice women of means and mobility aren't the ones having their bodily autonomy threatened. Poor women are.
In an interview full of mic drop moments, perhaps the most succinctly damning is when Justice Ginsburg discusses her dissent in the 2007 partial birth abortion case Gonzalez v. Carhart.
And there what concerned me about the Court's attitude, they were looking at the woman as not really an adult individual. The opinion said that the woman would live to regret her choice. That was not anything this Court should have thought or said. Adult women are able to make decisions about their own lives' course no less than men are. So, yes, I thought in Carhart the Court was way out of line. It was a new form of "Big Brother must protect the woman against her own weakness and immature misjudgment."
The more things change.
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