Ginsburg on Abortion and Eugenics

Some buzz has recently been made about comments from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on abortion. Ginsburg’s questionable words are as follows:

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.

Several conservative commentators and bloggers have pointed to that sentence as indicative of Ginsburg’s personal beliefs about the necessity of abortion and funding for it. Examples of the coverage of this issue can be read here, here and here. Conservative-leaning outlets have argued this to be evidence that Ginsburg supports eugenics to weed out society’s “less desirable.”

However, my own reading of her quote in context leaves me confused. It’s difficult to tell in the interview if the liberal-leaning Ginsburg is implying that she agrees with the argument that abortion as a tool of eugenics is an acceptable practice or merely that such an argument was one used at the time by some. Either way, it’s a telling statement.

One other candid comment from Ginsburg that is telling is when she said concerning the issue, “The basic thing is that the government has no business making that choice for a woman.” For that quote, unlike the one concerning eugenics, the context isn’t needed in order to understand it.

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