Friday, July 10, 2009

What did Ginsburg really mean by 'the populations we don't want to have too many of'?

Yesterday, I tweeted about this statement from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which will appear in a New York Times article this weekend:

"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."

Ben Domenech has a great article pointing out the serious questions this statement raises in What Does Ruth Bader Ginsburg Mean By “The Populations That We Don’t Want to Have Too Many Of”?

I highly recommend you read the entire thing - and then ask yourself 'what does Ruth Bader Ginsburg really mean'?


silkscreenscene said...

Interesting that you only quote a small portion of her larger answer to this question.

She seems to be saying that her perception of the policy direction of the Roe decision in 1973 (a time when she was merely a practicing lawyer, not a Justice) was to make abortion more broadly available to poor women. However, that perception was challenged by the 1980's decision to uphold the Hyde Amendment, barring Medicaid from funding abortions.

As she concludes that answer, "And then I realized that my perception of it had been altogether wrong."

She never says that she agrees with this policy argument, and in fact, this answer is a follow-up to her recognition that rich women will always have access to abortion, and poor women may not.

For someone who prizes her intellectual honesty, sure seems like you (and the article you link to, which selectively quotes too) are playing games with words here.

Kadim said...

One idea is to look what Nixon said, in newly released tapes:

Nixon worried that greater access to abortions would foster “permissiveness,” and said that “it breaks the family.” But he also saw a need for abortion in some cases — like interracial pregnancies, he said.

“There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white,” he told an aide, before adding, “Or a rape.”

To be fair, Nixon is more on the liberal side of things in my opinion.

Maggie Thurber said...

Silkscreenscene - I linked to the article as was available. The weekend edition of the paper in which the quote appears was not yet published.

It appears that rather than discuss the perception at the time (which Ginsburg, herself, notes) that abortions were to reduce the populations 'that we don't want to have too many of,' you attack my intellectual honesty.

Perhaps you've just misunderstood the purpose of my post - to wonder what she meant by this (did she think this was the purpose? did the legislators at the time? how widespread was this perception? were decisions for/against the issue the result of this perception?) and to question whether or not the decision to allow public funding of abortions was, indeed, to reduce certain populations, especially if the perception was 'reality'?

Also, please note that I have not posted my opinions on this at all. I just quoted the Justice, suggested you read the article and ask yourself the question.

Maggie Thurber said...

Kadim - I've read several articles and references over the last several years that such eugenics-type opinions were widely held by many (without regard to political party).

Some even suggest that current financial incentives offered to welfare recipients for certain long-term birth control options (like Norplant) equate to much the same thing, though it's promoted as 'preventing unwanted pregnancy' and not as reducing the 'populations we don't want to have too many of.'

Mad Jack said...

Ben Domenech's article assumes facts not in evidence; namely that Ben presumes to know the real meaning of Justice Ginsburg's remarks, and in point of fact he does not. Ben uses emotional arguments to discredit United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg personally, rather than writing a learned descent to the Roe v. Wade decision which Domenech vehemently disagrees with. Domenech will gain a larger following this way, but will not contribute to reversing Roe v. Wade, which, as Maggie Thurber knows, hinges on privacy rather than abortion.

From Maggie Thurber: I highly recommend you read the entire thing - and then ask yourself 'what does Ruth Bader Ginsburg really mean'?

I read Ben Domenech's article from beginning to end. Ben is against abortion, legal or not. I believe abortion should be completely legal, that both consumers and providers should be free of interference from abortion protesters, and that abortion should be completely funded by the State and Federal governments.

The correct person to ask about a detailed explanation of Justice Ginsburg's remarks is Justice Ginsburg, as she is the person who would know.

Maggie Thurber said...

Here's Jonah Goldberg's take on the comment.

He raises questions I'd like to know the answer to - and makes points I agree with.

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