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.
The impact of all these restrictions is on poor women, because women who have means, if their state doesn’t provide access, another state does. I think that the country will wake up and see that it can never go back to [abortions just] for women who can afford to travel to a neighboring state…
When people realize that poor women are being disproportionately affected, that’s when everyone will wake up? That seems very optimistic to me.
Given this context, can it be argued that Ginsburg — referring to “populations that we don’t want to have too many of” — was merely summarizing the views of others and describing the attitudes of the country when Roe v. Wade was decided? It can be argued — but it is not bloody likely. Who, in Ginsburg’s statement, is the “we”? And who, in 1973, was arguing for the eugenic purposes of abortion?
It is more likely that Ginsburg is describing the attitude of some of her own social class — that abortion is economically important to a “woman of means” and useful in reducing the number of social undesirables. Neither judge nor journalist apparently found this attitude exceptional; there was no follow-up question.
At the very least, Ginsburg displays a disturbing insensitivity to Supreme Court history. It was Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. who wrote the 1927 decision approving forced sterilization for Carrie Buck — a 17-year-old single mother judged to be feebleminded and morally delinquent. “It is better for all the world,” ruled Holmes, “if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.” Such elitism has been discredited; it is not extinct.
[T]he reaction, or I should say non-reaction, to her comments offers an interesting contrast with the deliberately dishonest attacks on Bill Bennett who, in 2005, offered a hypothetical in which crime might be reduced if blacks had more abortions. Relying on the Freakonomics thesis, he said, “That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down.” Bennett’s critics willfully ignored the part about such a policy being “impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible” and immediately proclaimed, in the words of Ed Schultz that Bennett was “out there advocating the murder of all black babies.”
To this day, the hypocrisy and stupidity of the reaction is difficult to capture in its staggering totality. As I noted at the time, Bennett’s pro-choice critics suddenly accepted that fetuses are in fact “babies” and that killing them is “murder.” In an instant they defenestrated the entire moral apparatus for abortion – fetuses are just “uterine contents” and eliminating them is merely of a piece with “women’s health” — just so they could score a few cheap partisan points against Bennett and preen about their racial enlightenment…
Now here is Ruth Bader Ginsburg talking about controlling the population of certain undesirables. It is doubtful that she is unaware that the poor are disproportionately African-American. So when she says we don’t want to promote growth of poor people, it doesn’t take any of the bad faith Bennett’s detractors deployed to conclude, “Oh, we know who she means.”
And yet you can be sure that liberals will not express even the tiniest fraction of outrage against her remarks. Why? Well, to be sure, partisanship explains much of the silence. But some of it undoubtedly stems from the fact that many simply agree with her.
You know how you have friends who complain about a super-old relative who just starts spouting racist stuff and can’t be quieted down? This is what interviews with Ginsburg remind me of. Also it doesn’t help that she keeps falling asleep during important speeches and oral arguments and just doesn’t care. I’m not saying she’s just like a crazy old racist great-aunt who keeps embarrassing us and we can’t do anything about it, but that’s basically what I’m saying…
I get that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is one of the most important champions of abortion and that those people who think people should be able to end some lives after they’ve begun just love her to pieces. And I get that the birth control and abortion rights movements have always had deep ties to eugenics, population control, and master race-type stuff. I get all that.
But it’s all kind of unseemly, no? It would be one thing if she were talking about the importance of promoting birth among all groups of people as a way of affirming the sacredness of life or what not, but her long-standing focus on how some “populations” shouldn’t be encouraged to have babies and should have subsidized abortion is beyond creepy. We get it, RBG, your social circles think life would be so much better if you didn’t have to deal with those awful poor people and their unapproved backgrounds and living conditions. But you’re supposed to be a tad bit better in covering up those motivations, mmmkay?
She was correct in her assessment of Roe; the co-counsel in that case, Ron Weddington, would later advise President Bill Clinton: “You can start immediately to eliminate the barely educated, unhealthy, and poor segment of our country,” by making abortifacients cheap and universally available. “It’s what we all know is true, but we only whisper it.”…
The economist Steven Levitt, for example, has argued that abortion helped to bring down crime rates; that probably isn’t true, but it has not stopped abortion enthusiasts from incorporating crime-reduction into their case for killing the poor. Abortion as a tool of population control remains very much in vogue, particularly with international organizations: “To avoid a world with deteriorating social, economic, and political stability, with the concomitant loss of personal and national security, we must ensure that safe abortion is made available,” writes the American population-control activist and academic Steven Mumford, who also advocates mass sterilizations.
There are two ways to account for humans beings: as assets, or as liabilities. For those who see the world the way Justice Ginsburg does — which is also the way Barack Obama does, along with most of his party — human beings are a liability. That is why they fundamentally misunderstand challenges such as employment; if you see people as a liability, then you see labor in terms of “creating jobs,” i.e. neutralizing that liability with a check every two weeks. It does not matter whether that labor produces anything valuable; if the liability is being met with a sufficient paycheck, problem solved. It should go without saying that Barack Obama et al. do not see themselves as liabilities. They see themselves as assets, which is how left-wing activists and Democratic functionaries justify their own enormous paychecks.
And they don’t see their own children as liabilities, either — just your kids, loser.