Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 5 Male Justices Have A 'Blind Spot' On Women's Issues

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 5 Male Justices Have A 'Blind Spot' On Women's Issues

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Thursday in an interview on Yahoo News that five men on the court have a "blind spot" when it comes to discrimination against women.

The five conservative justices last month ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. that closely held for-profit corporations can refuse for religious reasons to cover contraception in their health insurance plans. Ginsburg, the two other women on the court and Justice Stephen Breyer dissented from the majority opinion, arguing that allowing some employers to choose what kinds of health coverage their women employees receive is a form of discrimination.

Asked by Katie Couric whether the five male justices fully understood the ramifications of their decision, Ginsburg replied, "I would have to say no."

"It's a little bit like the Pregnancy Discrimination Act -- not getting a simple point," Ginsburg said, referring to a 2009 decision in which the majority ruled that women cannot receive retirement credit for maternity leave taken before the law was passed in 1978. "But justices continue to think and can change."

Ginsburg added that all the justices "have wives. They have daughters. By the way, I think daughters can change the perception of their fathers."

One example of a justice coming around on women's rights, Ginsburg said, is former Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist -- a conservative appointed by President Richard Nixon. When the Court considered the constitutionality of the Family and Medical Leave Act, a law that mostly benefited women who needed to take time off work to care for a sick child or family member, most people expected Rehnquist to vote to strike the law down. But he surprised everyone.

"Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote such a fine opinion, upholding the Family Medical Leave Act," Ginsburg said. "It was so fine that when I brought the decision home to my husband after it was released, he said, 'Ruth, did you write that?' It wasn't Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It was Chief Justice Rehnquist. So, I am ever hopeful that if the Court has a blind spot today, its eyes will be open tomorrow."

Couric also asked Ginsburg about Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that prevents states from cutting off women's ability to access abortions up until the fetus is viable outside the womb, around 22 to 24 weeks of pregnancy. Ginsburg said she has been critical of that opinion, not because of its result but because of the breadth of its reach. In striking down a Texas law that banned all abortions except when a woman's life is in danger, the court invited criticism from anti-abortion activists.

"The problem with Roe was it not only declared the Texas law -- the most extreme law -- unconstitutional, but it made every law in the country, even the most liberal, unconstitutional," Ginsburg said. "And that gave the Right to Life people a single target to move at -- a very effective target. Nine unelected judges making the decision that they argued should be made by state legislatures."

As states continue to pass anti-abortion laws that challenge Roe v. Wade, reproductive rights advocates worry that one of them will make it all the way up to the Supreme Court level and jeopardize the 1973 decision. If Ginsburg retires while a conservative president is in office, her replacement could completely tip the court in opposition to abortion rights.

But Ginsburg told Couric she's not going anywhere.

"People know that I'm here to stay, and my answer is I will do this job as long as I can do it full steam," Ginsburg said.

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