Ginsburg: Roe v. Wade gave abortion opponents a target
CHICAGO — One of the most liberal members of the Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg could be expected to give a rousing defense of Roe v. Wade in reflecting on the landmark vote 40 years after it established a nationwide right to abortion.
Instead, Ginsburg told an audience on Saturday at the University of Chicago Law School that while she supports a woman's right to choose, she believes the ruling by her predecessors on the court was too sweeping and gave abortion opponents a symbol to target. Ever since, she said, the momentum has been on the other side, with anger over Roe fueling a state-by-state campaign that has placed more restrictions on abortion.
“That was my concern, that the court had given opponents of access to abortion a target to aim at relentlessly,” she told a crowd of students. “... My criticism of Roe is that it seemed to have stopped the momentum that was on the side of change.”
The ruling is also a disappointment to a degree, Ginsburg said, because it was not argued in weighty terms of advancing women's rights. Rather, the Roe v. Wade opinion, written by Justice Harry Blackmun, centered on the right to privacy and asserted that it extended to a woman's decision on whether to end a pregnancy.
Four decades later, abortion is one of the most polarizing issues in American life, and anti-abortion activists have pushed legislation at the state level in an effort to scale back the 1973 decision.
Ginsburg would have preferred that the justices had made a narrower decision that struck down only the Texas law that brought the matter before the court. That law allowed abortions only to save a mother's life.
A more restrained judgment would have sent a message while allowing momentum to build at a time when a number of states were expanding abortion rights, she said. She added that it might have denied opponents the argument that abortion rights resulted from an undemocratic process in the decision by “unelected old men.”
Ginsburg told the students that she prefers what she termed “judicial restraint” and argued that such an approach can be more effective than expansive, aggressive decisions.
“The court can put its stamp of approval on the side of change and let that change develop in the political process,” she said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Judge orders nonprofit tax form release in case against IRS
- Former GOP nominee Romney will not run for president in ’16
- Taliban 5 linking with Haqqani, Graham says
- Rock pythons creep into Everglades
- Poll shows giant gap between what public, scientists think
- Senators approve Keystone pipeline
- 2 GOP senators to back Lynch for attorney general
- Obama calls for government spending surge
- Overhaul of military benefit programs sought
- Penn State University eyes changes to sexual misconduct case handling
- Attorney general nominee Lynch draws glowing review before Senate confirmation hearing