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Ruth Bader Ginsburg did not advocate lowering the age of consent

September 21, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wanted to lower the age of consent for sex to 12 years old.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. This bogus claim emerged during Ginsburg’s 1993 confirmation hearings when official testimony misinterpreted a recommendation by Ginsburg in a 1977 text published by the United States Commission on Civil Rights. It has lingered in the public forum ever since.

THE FACTS: In the days after Ginsburg died of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer, misinformation about her has circulated online, including a decades-old false claim about her views on the age of consent. 

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“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 idea that Ginsburg wanted to lower the age of consent to 12 is false. Ginsburg never said this.

The misguided claim has ties to a 1977 report by the USCCR called “Sex Bias in the U.S. Code,” which was prepared by Ginsburg and attorney Brenda Feigen-Fasteau. 

The report included a discussion of sex-based language in U.S. law to provide resources for lawmakers who wanted to eliminate such references. 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.”

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The USCCR report did not suggest implementing this bill, which never passed into law. It simply included it as a model for defining rape without sex-based references.

Ginsburg and Feigen-Fasteau included the same argument in a 1974 report titled “The Legal Status of Women Under Federal Law.”

In 1993, when the Senate vetted Ginsburg before giving her a seat on the Supreme Court, the false claim was mentioned in official testimony, including by Susan Hirschmann, executive director of the conservative think tank the Eagle Forum.

Later, in 2005, when President George W. Bush nominated John Roberts for a position on the court, the claim emerged again when public figures including Fox host Sean Hannity and Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham used it in arguments about Ginsburg’s morals.

In 2018, images on social media began circulating with a fake quote from Ginsburg saying, “Pedophilia is good for the children.” Ginsburg never said this.

In its latest evolution, in the wake of Ginsburg’s death, the claim the late justice wanted to lower the age of consent to 12 remains false.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536