By Andrew Chung
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was hospitalized on Thursday after she fell in her office at the court the night before, fracturing three ribs, a court spokeswoman said.
The 85-year-old justice initially went home after the fall, but experienced discomfort overnight. She went to George Washington University Hospital on Thursday morning.
Tests showed she fractured three ribs on her left side and she was admitted for observation and treatment, said the spokeswoman, Kathy Arberg.
Ginsburg, who has served on the court since 1993, is the oldest of the nine justices and one of the court's four liberals.
The court's 5-4 conservative majority was restored last month when the U.S. Senate confirmed Republican President Donald Trump's appointee Brett Kavanaugh after a contentious nomination process in which Kavanaugh denied a sexual assault allegation dating to the 1980s.
If Ginsburg were unable to continue serving on the court, Trump would likely move swiftly to replace her with a conservative, further shifting the court to the right. That would have major consequences for issues including abortion, the death penalty, voting rights, gay rights, business litigation and presidential powers.
As the oldest justice, Ginsburg is closely watched for any signs of deteriorating health. She has survived bouts with cancer and undergoes regular medical checkups. This week's incident was not the first time Ginsburg has suffered an injury as a result of a fall - in June 2012, she fell at home and cracked two ribs.
Kavanaugh's nomination hearings were rocked by university professor Christine Blasey Ford's allegations that he sexually assaulted her in 1982, when they were both high school students.
Ginsburg, who made her name as an advocate for women's rights, voiced support for the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct even as Kavanaugh was about to face a Senate hearing on the allegations against him, saying that unlike in her youth, "women nowadays are not silent about bad behavior."
Trump was scheduled to go to the court on Thursday for a formal ceremony seating Kavanaugh.
Ginsburg made critical comments about Trump when he was running for president in 2016, in an unusual foray into politics by a Supreme Court justice.
She later said she regretted making the comments, saying "judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office."
Kavanaugh's Senate confirmation process convulsed the nation just weeks before Tuesday's congressional elections in which Trump's fellow Republicans lost control of the U.S. House of Representatives but built on their majority in Senate, which has sole authority over judicial and Supreme Court nominations.
On Wednesday, Trump credited the fight over confirming Kavanaugh, in which Democrats strongly opposed the nominee, for the gains in the Senate.
"By expanding the Senate majority, the voters have also clearly rebuked the Senate Democrats for their handling of the Kavanaugh hearings," he said.
Trump already has named two members of the court, adding conservative federal appeals court judges Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, who was confirmed by the Senate last year.
If he were able to make a third nomination to the court to replace Ginsburg, that would increase the conservative majority to 6-3. The court's other liberal justices are Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.
(Reporting by Andrew Chung and Will Dunham; Editing by Alison Williams and Frances Kerry)