WASHINGTON – Supreme Court Associate Justice and four-time cancer survivor Ruth Bader Ginsburg is back in the hospital, but only for a relatively routine procedure.
The court said Ginsburg, the court’s eldest justice at 87, underwent “a minimally invasive, non-surgical procedure” Wednesday at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City to revise a bile duct stent inserted nearly a year ago.
The procedure was performed using endoscopy and medical imaging guidance to minimize the risk of future infection, and her doctors said such stent revisions are common.
“The justice is resting comfortably and expects to be released from the hospital by the end of the week,” the court said.
Ginsburg’s health is of paramount concern to Democrats because if she were forced to leave the court in the next few months, President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans would have an opportunity to replace her and expand the court’s 5-4 conservative majority.
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Ginsburg announced two weeks ago that she is battling cancer again, just days after being hospitalized for a possible infection. A periodic scan and biopsy revealed lesions on her liver earlier this year, causing her to resume chemotherapy treatment in May.
The lesions most likely stem from last year’s pancreatic cancer, which followed lung cancer in 2018 and earlier bouts of pancreatic and colon cancer one and two decades earlier.
She said earlier this month that she would continue bi-weekly chemotherapy “to keep my cancer at bay” and would maintain an active daily routine, keeping up with court work. That work is lessened during the summer, when the justices do not sit for oral arguments or decide argued cases. Their next term begins in October.
Ginsburg said at the time that she would stay on the court “as long as I can do the job full steam,” a phrase she has used many times in the past.
For years, Ginsburg’s health has been a concern for Democrats and liberal interest groups who worry that the high court’s conservative majority could be expanded if she were to leave the bench before the November presidential election. Even if Democrats sweep to victories, Republicans will control the Senate at least until Jan. 3, and President Donald Trump will be in office at least until Jan. 20.
Ginsburg, the second-longest-serving justice on the bench, was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1993. She is the leader of the court’s liberal wing, which includes Associate Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
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That group is outnumbered by five conservative justices, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, who has become the swing vote of the court. To his right are Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
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Before her fourth cancer was diagnosed last year, Ginsburg had said she hoped to stay on the bench for at least five more years, noting that the late Associate Justice John Paul Stevens served until age 90. Stevens died a year ago at 99.