Chicago, IL — US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg, a strong supporter of a woman’s right to choose, is nonetheless not a big fan of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion from coast to coast.
Ginsburg declared last night at the University of Chicago that the decision was an overreach by the High Court and politicized the controversial issue to the point of making it a relentless target for opponents. She also seemed to suggest that the decision had the unintended consequence of giving momentum to the pro-life movement which to some degree is playing out at the state level now.
Instead, the court should have issued a much narrower ruling that focused only on weighing the merits or demerits of the law in the state where the abortion rights lawsuit got its start, according to Ginsburg. “In Roe v. Wade, the court should have steered away from a sweeping legalization of abortion, Ginsburg argued. Instead, a ruling should have taken the narrower approach of deeming unconstitutional the Texas law that spawned the case, which only allowed abortions deemed life saving for a woman, she said. Doing so, Ginsburg said, would have spurred a gradual, state-by-state loosening of abortion restrictions and contributed to the democratic process.”
A limited ruling along these lines would have been consistent with the principle of judicial restraint which is generally advocated by conservatives rather than liberals like Justice Ginsburg.
The justice also criticized the 14th Amendment privacy-based Roe decision for being too doctor-centered rather than woman’s rights-centered.
Last year, Ginsburg made a similar observation about the landmark abortion case. “It’s not that the judgment was wrong, but it moved too far, too fast.”
Laws vary from state to state under the concept of federalism, and Ginsburg seems to be suggesting that the abortion restrictions or lack thereof should also have been handled the same way.
Over the years, in the national debate about abortion the media and politicians have tried to push everyone into either the pro-choice or pro-life camp. In the real world, however, the average person is probably conflicted over the whole highly sensitive issue. Moreover, you can simultaneously be both pro-choice and feel Roe. v. Wade was wrongly decided, along the lines of what Justice Ginsburg has outlined.
Another aspect that is often left out of the media narrative is that if Roe v. Wade was ever overturned, however unlikely, the issue would go back to the states, and each state could decide for itself what choice-related measures it would adopt.
Justice Ginsburg, 80, a Clinton appointee, joined the court in 1993.
Does it surprise you that one of the most liberal justices apparently has some common ground with the pro-life movement? Do you think that this approach could be a precursor of how the Supreme Court might rule on same-sex marriage (i.e., let the states work it out for themselves) rather than issue a one-size-fits-all decision?