Ginsburg, who is the court’s oldest member and its longest-serving Democratic appointee, has suffered several bouts of cancer over the past couple of decades and acknowledged last year that she was again receiving treatment for pancreatic cancer. As recently as January, however, she said publicly that doctors believed she was cancer free.
Ginsburg’s new statement does not discuss the potential to cure the cancer, but instead stresses that it has not interfered with her duties as a justice.
“I am tolerating chemotherapy well and am encouraged by the success of my current treatment. I will continue bi-weekly chemotherapy to keep my cancer at bay, and am able to maintain an active daily routine. Throughout, I have kept up with opinion writing and all other Court work,” Ginsburg wrote.
Ginsburg said doctors first attempted immunotherapy to fight the liver lesions, but that proved “unsuccessful,” prompting the move to chemotherapy.
Ginsburg was hospitalized briefly earlier this week for what the court said was a “possible infection” that may have been related to a blocked stent placed in her bile duct during the pancreatic cancer treatment last year. She also spent two nights in the hospital in May for treatment of a gallstone. The new statement said those episodes were “unrelated” to the cancer recurrence.
Many of the court’s public disclosures about Ginsburg’s health appear to have been grudging, delayed or incomplete.
For instance, the court confirmed her diagnosis with pancreatic cancer last year at New York’s Sloan Kettering only after a photographer spotted her in New York City leaning on a marshal who provides security for her. At the time of the court’s statement, Ginsburg had completed a three-week course of radiation treatment aimed at shrinking the tumor on her pancreas.
And when she was hospitalized in May, the court issued a statement saying she was receiving treatment for “a benign gallbladder condition.” No mention was made at that time of the fact that, according to the statement Friday, she had received a more worrisome diagnosis of liver cancer in February, following both scans and a biopsy. That also went undisclosed in the statement Tuesday about her recent hospitalization.
Ginsburg’s statement strikes a defensive tone on the transparency issue, indicating she did not wish to disclose her latest cancer battle until she was confident the disease was in check. “Satisfied that my treatment course is now clear, I am providing this information,” she said.
Ginsburg was President Bill Clinton’s first nominee to the Supreme Court, confirmed by the Senate in 1993 in a 96-3 vote.
At various points in the past couple of years, President Donald Trump’s aides have made preparations for the possibility that Ginsburg’s seat might become open. Trump’s two appointments to the court have allowed him to swing it to the right, but because his nominees replaced Republican-appointed justices, the change has been limited.
Replacing Ginsburg would result in not just an advantage for GOP appointees, but them outnumbering the Democratic appointees, 6-3.
In an interview last month, Trump lamented the fact that some Republican appointees voted with the Democratic-appointed justices on major cases this term. The president suggested that his reelection would put more GOP-appointed justices on the court and allow rulings more to his liking on issues like abortion rights.
“You’ve had a lot of losses with a Court that was supposed to be in our favor,” Trump told CBN News, a religion-focused broadcaster. “This is just to show what means we need, you know, you’ll probably have a couple of more judges in the next four years. It could even be more than that, could be three or four. If you have a radical left group of judges, religions, I think will be almost wiped out at America. If you look at it, pro-life will be absolutely wiped out.”