After suffering debilitating injuries from a fall in her office last month, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told a room full of supporters that she is “feeling just fine.”
The 85-year-old suffered three fractured ribs from the accident and was subsequently admitted to George Washington University Hospital for observation. But Ginsburg wasn’t hospitalized until after she went home and tried to battle through the excruciating pain on her own.
In fighting shape
Appearing for a live Q&A session at the National Archives with NPR’s Nina Tonenberg, Ginsburg assured the audience that she was recovering well.
“I’m feeling just fine, and I am meeting my personal trainer tomorrow,” she said, earning loud applause from the audience.
Despite the severity of her injuries, this wasn’t Ginsburg’s first public appearance since her fall. Just two weeks after the incident, she was at the White House for the National Medal of Freedom ceremony, and she was spotted at the National Cathedral mourning the death of President George H.W. Bush just last week.
Ginsburg — or “the Notorious RBG,” as she is known in liberal circles — was at the National Archives for an advanced screening of Focus Features and Participant Media’s On the Basis of Sex. Directed by Mimi Leder and written by Ginsburg’s nephew Dan Stiepleman, the film portrays a young Ginsburg battling in federal court over a 1970s gender discrimination case.
In Moritz v. IRS, Ginsburg — played by Felicity Jones — represents an unmarried man who was denied a tax deduction for caregiving expenses based upon his gender.
“When Dan came to me with this idea [for the movie], I said, ‘Well, if you want to spend years of your life, it is your choice, if you want to do it,’” Ginsburg said. “And I asked why did he pick the Moritz case? Why did you pick that case instead of one of the Supreme Court cases? And Dan’s answer was, ‘I want this film to be as much story of a marriage as the development of a legal strategy.’”
Champion of gender equality
RBG went on to recall how her husband, Marty Ginsburg, first brought the landmark case to her attention.
“Marty came into my little room, he worked in the bigger room, and he said, ‘Ruth, read this.’ And I said, ‘Marty, you know I don’t read tax cases,” Ginsburg recalled. “[He said], ‘Read this one.’ About 10 minutes later, I walked into his big room and said, ‘Marty, let’s take it.’”
The case would launch Ginsburg’s career as a champion of gender discrimination suits and lead to the founding of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project. The film also showcases the challenges Ginsburg faced in the 1950s as a Harvard Law School student.
Cherished as a progressive icon by the left, Ginsburg’s health has been the subject of close media and political scrutiny. The octogenarian cracked her ribs in 2012, has survived two prior bouts with cancer and required surgery to open a clogged artery four years ago.
The Supreme Court has turned decidedly conservative since President Donald Trump replaced two retiring justices with right-leaning jurists. If Ginsburg succumbs to any health-related problems in her advanced age, the composition of the court could remain conservative for an even longer period, causing a fair amount of hand-wringing from the left.
So far, though, RBG has shown that she is indefatigable in the face of injury, and she doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all in her 25th year on the bench.