The first woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court just released a letter addressed to the American people detailing her possible Alzheimer's diagnosis and regretfully declaring that she can no longer continue her civic duties. The 88-year-old said her diagnosis was made some time ago and that as her condition has progressed she is "no longer able to participate in public life". She said she wanted to compose this letter while she is "still able to share some personal thoughts".
"As a young cowgirl from the Arizona desert, I never could have imagined that one day I would become the first woman justice on the U.S. Supreme Court", she added.
After retiring from the court, O'Connor dedicated herself to improving civics education, starting a group called iCivics that provided free online resources for middle and high school students.More news: Mission to Mercury blasts off
This April 15, 2015 photo released by Seneca Women shows Justice Sandra Day O'Connor at the Seneca Women Global Leadership Forum at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington.
O'Connor used her announcement today as an opportunity to promote civics education, a cause that she has supported since her retirement 12 years ago.
When Republican former President George W. Bush replaced her with conservative Justice Samuel Alito, the already-conservative court moved further to the right. He also said that hip issues have meant she now primarily uses a wheelchair and stays close to her home in Phoenix. She took part in key votes that included Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003, allowing state colleges and universities to use affirmative action in their admissions, and the Bush v. Gore case, which stopped the recount in Florida that officially made George W. Bush as the USA president in 2000.More news: Tens of thousands rally for Taiwan independence vote
Chief Justice John Roberts praised O'Connor in a statement Tuesday as a "towering figure" and a "role model not only for girls and women, but for all those committed to equal justice under law".
"No illness can take away the inspiration she provides for those who will follow the many paths she has blazed", he said. It was a decision influenced by the decline in the health of her husband, John O'Connor III, who himself had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.More news: Meghan joins Prince Harry to meet royal fans after rest