Monday, July 20, 2009

Are You One of The People "We" Don't Want To Have Too Many Of?

I've wanted to post on this New York Times interview for several days, but I've been struggling with what to say. It's not any secret that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a supporter of abortion rights. That was well known before she was chosen for the Supreme Court. Also, I think that any public figure can say things in an interview that, when printed, sound off-kilter. What concerns me more is what this interview, and the fact that it hasn't produced the kind of firestorm that other public figures have faced with unfortunate off-the-cuff comments, say about the undercurrents of our culture....what we take for granted as something we live with, what doesn't shock us anymore. So, I'm just going to post the whole context of the quotes without any further comment. (The italics for the reporter's questions were in the original).

"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."

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