CLAIM: The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wanted to lower the age of consent for sex to 12 years old.
THE FACTS: This bogus claim first emerged during Ginsburg’s 1993 confirmation hearings when official testimony misinterpreted a recommendation by Ginsburg in a 1977 report published by the United States Commission on Civil Rights. It has lingered in the public forum ever since.
In the days after Ginsburg died of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer, misinformation about her has circulated online, including the decades-old false claim about her views on the age of consent. “Why is everyone pretending to be sad that RBG died?” read a tweet that was later screen-captured and reposted on Instagram. “It was GOOD riddance by a long shot, she wanted to lower the age of consent for sex to 12. She is a pedophile sympathizer and deserves nothing less.” The Instagram post was viewed more than 54,000 times and received more than 4,000 likes. Similar claims were shared by Twitter and Facebook accounts associated with QAnon, a baseless conspiracy theory that centers on the president fighting off satanic pedophiles and other enemies in the so-called deep state. The 1977 report, “Sex Bias in the U.S. Code,” was prepared by Ginsburg and attorney Brenda Feigen-Fasteau. It included a discussion of sex-based language in U.S. law to provide resources for lawmakers who wanted to make laws gender-neutral. It noted the language of a proposed 1973 bill as an example of a gender-neutral definition of rape: “A person is guilty of an offense if he engages in a sexual act with another person, not his spouse, and (1) compels the other person to participate: (A) by force or (B) by threatening or placing the other person in fear that any person will imminently be subjected to death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping; (2) has substantially impaired the other person’s power to appraise or control the conduct by administering or employing a drug or intoxicant without the knowledge or against the will of such other person, or by other means; or (3) the other person is, in fact, less than 12 years old.” The USCCR report did not suggest implementing the bill, which never passed into law. It was simply included it as a model for defining rape without sex-based references.
— Associated Press writer Ali Swenson contributed this report.