Thursday, July 09, 2009

Did Justice Ginsburg Really Say What it Looks like She Said?

In an interview to be published in this coming Sunday's print edition of the New York Times Magazine, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has the following exchange with interviewer Emily Bazelon (hat tip to Ed Whelan on NRO's Corner blog):

Q: If you were a lawyer again, what would you want to accomplish as a future feminist legal agenda?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Reproductive choice has to be straightened out. There will never be a woman of means without choice anymore. That just seems to me so obvious. The states that had changed their abortion laws before Roe [to make abortion legal] are not going to change back. So we have a policy that affects only poor women, and it can never be otherwise, and I don’t know why this hasn’t been said more often.

Q: Are you talking about the distances women have to travel because in parts of the country, abortion is essentially unavailable, because there are so few doctors and clinics that do the procedure? And also, the lack of Medicaid for abortions for poor women?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Yes, the ruling about that surprised me. [Harris v. McRae — in 1980 the court upheld the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of Medicaid for abortions.] Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion. Which some people felt would risk coercing women into having abortions when they didn’t really want them. But when the court decided McRae, the case came out the other way. And then I realized that my perception of it had been altogether wrong.
Did Justice Ginsburg actually lament the failure of Roe to require government funding of abortion for undesirable classes of people?

On the most charitable reading, according to which Ginsburg is not lamenting, but only recalling, critically, her own impressions of things at the time, the observation is appalling.

Usually, there is some edulcoration or pseudo-justification offered, along the lines of "easing the burden" of poor women.

Such a frank admission of the expected eugenic utility of Federal funding for abortion as a motivating factor in people's advocacy for the policy and for the judicial mandating thereof, is surprising, even refreshing: the chill reminds me I am alive.


Anonymous said...

you're wrong both ways. she is obviously saying what she is saying, i.e., that she was afraid it would be used to force women to abort people we didn't want, presumably poor or minorities. She was relieved, in her opinion that it did not.

Lazy Disciple said...

Dear Anon,

I am not getting that, at all.

Can you elaborate please?

Also, I have an honor system - please identify yourself (a pseudonym is fine).