The news that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg experienced a second bout of pancreatic cancer this year was a triple blow for me. First, she has been a long-time champion for the rights of women and minorities and we need her on the Supreme Court to continue that work. Second, it is likely her vote will determine whether the Affordable Care Act (ACA) lives or dies.
The third blow is much more personal. When I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January 2017, just two weeks after I retired from the Idaho Supreme Court, the outlook seemed pretty bleak. Google was not very encouraging, giving a range of 5-year life expectancies ranging anywhere from 3% to 30%.
But I kept thinking about RBG and how she had beaten pancreatic cancer in 2009. It gave me hope--if a skinny wisp of a woman, then 75 years old, could overcome that dread disease, a 75-year-old farm-grown war veteran might also have a chance. RBG became my loadstar--my hope and prayer. And, sure enough, I went into remission that September.
My favorite oncologist, who recently pronounced me cancer free for two whole years, said that RBG is not necessarily in mortal trouble. Being a consummate professional, he did not offer a diagnosis based on news reports. However, there is hope that she will get past the recent recurrence of cancer.
Just to play it safe, I’m thinking of taking up a collection to prolong her life and her tenure on the Supreme Court. I propose to give her at least a month of the extra life I gained from the courage and hope she gave me with her example. If everyone else who admires this remarkable woman would pledge a month or so of their life to her, she should be with us for many more years.
OK, you say that people can’t donate a portion of their life to others. As an alternative, everyone concerned about this deadly scourge could make a generous donation to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network in honor of RBG. https://secure.panCAN.org. I’m sure that would be a boost to her morale and it would certainly be of great help in fighting this deadly form of cancer.
Getting back to the second issue, it is likely that the Supreme Court will soon be considering whether to kill the ACA in its entirety. That would mean restoring the right of insurance companies to deny insurance to people with pre-existing conditions. Children would no longer be covered by their parents’ policies to age 26. All of the other protections of the ACA would disappear if the Supreme Court were to agree with the president that the ACA should be wiped off the face of the earth.
A federal judge in Texas has ruled that the ACA should die an untimely death (Texas v. Azar). The conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will issue a ruling on the case soon. That ruling, whichever way it goes, will likely go to the U.S. Supreme Court sometime next year, where it will probably be decided on a 5-4 vote.
The Trump administration is vigorously working to drive a stake through the heart of the ACA. Presuming Chief Justice John Roberts again votes in favor of the ACA, RBG’s vote will be critical to save it. Without her vote, the entire ACA and its protections for millions of Americans will come crashing down, which will throw the U.S. health insurance industry, and perhaps the entire economy, into utter chaos. Please join me in praying for the good health of Justice Ginsburg.
Jim Jones is a former Idaho attorney general and a former Idaho Supreme Court chief justice. His previous columns can be found at https://JJCommonTater.com.