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Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Abortion

Supreme Court Justice (nominated by Pres. Clinton 1993)

 


Political right uses ambiguous law as obstacles to abortion

In 1993, RBG believed technology would take care of the rest of the conflict over abortion, thanks to newly approved pills that induced abortion early in pregnancy. "More and more I think that science is going to put this decision in women's hands," she said in an interview. "The law will become largely irrelevant." That's not at all what happened. Like almost everything else surrounding abortion, that medication became subject to a maze of restriction blocking women's access to it. The right hadn't been able to ban abortion entirely, but it had found a way to make it ever harder to access, one seemingly benign regulation at a time. All this was seemingly enabled by the Casey decision, which said states could restrict abortion as long as they didn't put an "undue burden" on a woman's right to choose abortion. The law had stayed very much relevant.
Source: Notorious RBG, by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik, p.131-2 , Oct 27, 2015

Abortion restrictions won't affect women of means

Ten years into the Roberts court, much of what RBG has fought for remains at risk, starting with reproduction freedom. The court is poised to consider restrictions on abortion clinics that affect tens of millions of women. "We will never see a day when women of means are not able to get a safe abortion in this country," RBG told me. An abortion ban, she said, only "hurts women who lack the means to go someplace else."
Source: Notorious RBG, by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik, p.175-6 , Oct 27, 2015

Parental notification is lower priority than maternal health

In Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, a challenge to a New Hampshire law that prohibits doctors from performing an abortion on a minor until 48 hours after a parent has been notified is heard. The Supreme Court rules that the government cannot restrict abortions when one is required during a medical emergency.

OnTheIssues explanation: The court did not rule against "parental notification" in general; in other words, states can decide if and when a minor girl's parents must be notified. But the court imposed restrictions: if the minor girl's life is in danger, her right to an abortion overrules the state's requirement for parental notification. Justices in the majority agree that the right to an abortion for maternal health is the higher priority (a pro-choice stance); justices in the minority say that parental notification has the higher priority (a pro-life stance).

Opinions: O`Connor wrote majority opinion; all 8 other justices concurred.

Source: InfoPlease.com on 2006 SCOTUS docket #04-1144 , Jan 18, 2006

Government should fund abortion and childbirth equally

SEN. GRAHAM: Here is what Justice Ginsburg said in an article she wrote titled, “Some Thoughts on Autonomy and Equality in Relationship to Roe v. Wade.”
“The conflict is not simply one between a fetus’ interest and a woman’s interest.. Also in the balance is a woman’s autonomous charge of her full life’s course, her ability to stand in relation to men, society and to stay as an independent, self-sustaining equal citizen. As long as the government paid for childbirth, the argument proceeded, public funding could not be denied for abortion, often a safer and always a far-less expensive course short and long term. By paying for childbirth but not abortion, the government increased spending and intruded upon or steered a choice Roe had ranked as a woman’s fundamental right.“

GRAHAM: That writing suggests that not only is Roe an important constitutional right to the author, but that government ought to pay for abortions in certain circumstances.

Source: Sam Alito 2006 SCOTUS Senate Confirmation Hearings , Jan 11, 2006

It’s a woman’s body and a woman’s choice

Senator Hank Brown: [Asked Ginsburg about] equal rights for men and women on the question of abortion.

Ginsburg: I will rest my answer on the Casey decision, which says in the end it’s her body, her life, and men - to that extent - are not similarly situated. They don’t bear the child.

Brown: [Asked to explain further about whether] the rights of men and women are not equal in this case.

Ginsburg: I said on the equality side of it, that it is essential to a woman’s equality with man that she be the decision-maker, that her choice be controlling. If you impose restraints, you are disadvantaging her because of her sex.. The state controlling a woman would mean denying her full autonomy and full equality.

Source: Senate Nomination Hearing, excerpts in NY Times , Jul 22, 1993

Boldness of Roe prolongs divisiveness; state-by-state better

In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a compromise might allow states to put restrictions on abortion as long as they didn't pose an "undue burden" on women--or ban it before viability. Neither side was thrilled, but Roe was safe, at least for the moment. Just as feminists had caught their breath, RBG declared that Roe itself was the problem.

If only the court had acted more slowly, RBG said, and cut down one state law at a time, the justices could have been persuaded to build an architecture of women's equality that could house reproductive freedom. She said the very boldness of Roe, striking down all abortion bans until viability, had "halted a political process that was moving in a reform direction and thereby, I believe, prolonged divisiveness and deferred stable settlement of the issue."

This analysis remains controversial among historians, who say the political process of abortion access had stalled before Roe.

Source: Notorious RBG, by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik, p. 84-5 , Mar 1, 1993

Challenge excessive restrictions against legal abortion

Even if the Supreme Court made abortion legal, "excessive restrictions on where abortions can be performed and medical benefits that can be applied to abortions would still have to be challenged." Other priorities, RBG wrote, would be "the right to be voluntarily sterilized"--something white, middle-class women had been discouraged from doing by their doctors--"and the right not to be involuntarily sterilized"--something women of color and those considered "mentally defective" had been subject to. Ten years into the Roberts court, much of what RBG has fought for remains at risk, starting with reproduction freedom. The court is poised to consider restrictions on abortion clinics that affect tens of millions of women. "We will never see a day when women of means are not able to get a safe abortion in this country," RBG told me. An abortion ban, she said, only "hurts women who lack the means to go someplace else."
Source: Notorious RBG, by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik, p.175-6 , Oct 1, 1972

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Other Justices on Abortion: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on other issues:
Samuel Alito(since 2006)
Stephen Breyer(since 1994)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg(since 1993)
Elena Kagan(since 2010)
Anthony Kennedy(since 1988)
John Roberts(since 2005)
Sonia Sotomayor(since 2009)
Clarence Thomas(since 1991)

Former Justices:
Merrick Garland(nominated 2016)
Antonin Scalia(1986-2016)
John Paul Stevens(1975-2010)
David Souter(1990-2009)
Sandra Day O'Connor(1981-2006)
William Rehnquist(1975-2005)

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Page last updated: Oct 02, 2018