Supreme Court observers felt a great wave of excitement this week when the Court joined the age of the telephone, if not the computer: On Monday, SCOTUS broadcast its first-ever audio feed, marking a huge step toward a more public process, as the coronavirus pandemic requires justices to participate in oral arguments over the phone. The exhilaration was followed by a wave of dread on Tuesday, when the Court announced that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was recovering in the hospital following a nonsurgical treatment for a benign gallbladder condition.
“Following oral arguments on Monday, the Justice underwent outpatient tests at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C., that confirmed she was suffering from a gallstone that had migrated to her cystic duct, blocking it and causing an infection,” a Supreme Court press release stated. “The Justice is resting comfortably and plans to participate in the oral argument teleconference tomorrow morning remotely from the hospital.” Ginsburg is expected to remain in the hospital for “a day or two.”
Justice Ginsburg, 87, has faced several recent health scares. Last November, she was admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, complaining of chills and a fever from an infection. Last August, she had radiation therapy to treat a tumor on her pancreas, while in December 2018, she had cancerous nodules surgically removed from her lungs. A month before that, she was hospitalized after falling in her office and breaking three ribs. Previously, she had surgery for early-stage pancreatic cancer in 2009, and was treated for colon cancer in 1999.
With Ginsburg asking questions from her hospital bed at Sibley Memorial, the Court will hear a case regarding President Trump’s attempt to allow employers to be exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate if they reject to birth control on moral or religious grounds.