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Sandra Day O'Connor was the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. A Republican, she was considered a moderate conservative and served for 24 years.
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In opposition to the Republican call to reverse the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion rights, O'Connor provided the vote needed to uphold the court's earlier decision. She often focused on the letter of law, not the clamoring of politicians,
and voted for what she believed best fit the intentions of the U.S. Constitution.
O'Connor was also the deciding vote on the controversial Bush v. Gore case in 2000. The case helped determine the winner of the contested 2000 presidential election by upholding the original certification of Florida's electoral votes. President George W. Bush went on to serve a second term.
During her time at court, O'Connor faced some personal challenges. She discovered that she had breast cancer in 1988, and subsequently underwent a mastectomy. In 1994, O'Connor publicly revealed her battle with the disease in a speech deliver to the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship. But it was her husband's declining health that eventually led the respected jurist to step down from the bench.
Sandra Day O'Connor retired from the court on January 31, 2006. Part of her reason for retiring was to spend more time with her husband, John Jay O'Connor, who suffered from Alzheimer's. The couple married in 1952 and had three sons. Her husband died in 2009.
For 24 years, Sandra Day O'Connor was a pioneering force on the Supreme Court. She'll long be remembered as acting as a sturdy guiding hand in the court's decisions during those years, and for serving a swing vote in many important cases.
O'Connor didn't slow down in her retirement. In 2006, she launched iCivics, an online civics education venture aimed at middle school students. As she explained to Parade magazine, "We have a complex system of government. You have to teach it to every generation." She has also authored several books in addition to her efforts to advance young people's understanding of government. She penned the 2008 children's book Finding Susie and the 2013 judical memoir The Majesty of the Law: Reflections of a Supreme Court Justice.
O'Connor has also active on lecture circuit, speaking to different groups around the country. She has also spoke out numerous times on legal matters over the years.In 2012, O'Connor defended current Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts for his vote to uphold President Barack Obama's healthcare law. Roberts was under fire for not voting in line with conservative views. According to the Los Angeles Times, O'Connor said that the justices were not obligated to follow the politics of the president who appointed him or her. She has also campaigned to end judical appointment through elections, believing that making judges campaign compromises the judical process.
Since her retirement, O'Connor has received numerous accolades for her accomplishments. President Obama honored her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. Arizona State University also named its law school after the distinguished justice. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona.
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