On Sept. 18, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died at her home in Washington, D.C., surrounded by family. But this is not an obituary, because, in another sense, Ginsburg did not die.
Yes, her body stopped working after 87 years and a valiant fight with pancreatic cancer. Yes, the heart that tirelessly fought for gender equality has stopped beating. The “Notorious RBG” will never again take the bench, write a scathing dissent or take her conservative colleagues to task as a sitting member of the highest court in the United States.
But Ginsburg did not die, because the legacy of her fervent fight for abortion rights lives on.
Ginsburg lives on in the abortion providers who continue to provide care during a global pandemic that has claimed nearly 200,000 American lives. You can see glimpses of her in their eyes as they remind patients that despite attempts by GOP lawmakers to use a public health crisis to stifle abortion access, abortion providers will continue to show up for them. Someone will always be there.
You can talk to her when you call the National Network of Abortion Funds to find a clinic that provides abortion care in your area. You will hear the echoes of her defiant voice — the voice of a history-making giant — in the careful instructions provided by an abortion funds employee telling you where to go, what to expect and how you can procure abortion funds, transportation or child care, should you need it.
You’ll feel her as you are escorted toward the doors of a clinic by a stranger in a brightly colored vest holding an even more brightly colored umbrella. She’ll be there, comforting you alongside the clinic escort shielding you from hateful protesters, reminding you that you deserve the care you want and need. That you are loved. That you are valued. That you are in charge of your own body.
She is resting now, but you will hear her tenacity, her steadfast opposition to the backslide of equality, in the voices of lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood and other reproductive justice organizations — lawyers who are continuing to argue for the constitutional right to safe, affordable and legal access to abortion care. Every brief written. Every emergency injunction filed. Every case won, she will be there.
She is the stranger offering up a couch to the woman who traveled 300 miles to the nearest abortion clinic and who couldn’t afford a hotel.
She is the nurse practitioner who uses the correct pronouns when preparing a trans man for his surgical abortion at 11 weeks gestation.
She is the abortion provider who went to work the day after a bomb threat.
She is the workers who refused to quit their jobs after a gunman shot and killed people inside a Planned Parenthood in 2015.
She is the volunteer driving abortion patients over state lines when clinics close.
She is the underage Jane Doe fighting for a judicial bypass in court, arguing her inherent humanity to a judge as if it was ever up for debate.
She is the woman holding her best friend’s hand through a medication abortion at home, pouring her a cold Coke because she knows it’s her favorite and pressing play on a “menstruation sensation” playlist because she knows her friend needs a laugh.
She is the abortion storyteller, her voice unwavering as she shares the details of her common, safe, legal medical procedure so that others will not be weighed down by shame, stigma and judgment when they have theirs.
You see her in every woman who has fought for abortion rights. The ones who came before and after her. The ones who are not afraid to say, “I’ve had an abortion.” Who proudly say, “I love someone who has had an abortion.” Who knows that everyone — Black and White, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, atheist and religious, single and married, a parent and someone who is child-free, binary and non-binary, young and old, able-bodied and disabled — has the constitutional right to abortion care.
Yes, on Sept. 18, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. But she is still with us. Forever present. Forever fighting.