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The case for life grows by leaps and bounds

by | May 23, 2013

By Dave Andrusko

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer Prize editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He has spoken several times at the National Right to Life Convention to the delight of his audiences and anything he writes about is worth reading. But Mr. Greenberg is at his finest when he tackles abortion as he did once again this week in “The Growing Case for Life.”

He takes as his starting point a series of comments by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. On several occasions she has criticized Roe not because she has a pro-life bone in her body but because Ginsburg concludes it stirred up a hornet’s nest of opposition. Where she goes wrong is in assuming that support for abortion would have raced, like water downhill, from one state to another to another until abortion proponents would have secured what they were given by seven justices of the Supreme Court but without all the hassle of dealing with people like you and me.

Greenberg reminds readers that one of Ginsburg’s first forays into critiquing Roe was in the summer of 2009. She said

“Reproductive choice has to be straightened out. There will never be a woman of means without choice any more. That just seems to me so obvious. The states that changed their abortion laws before Roe are not going to change back. So we have a policy that only affects poor women, and it can never be otherwise. … 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.”

She has since had another apologist “clarify” what she meant, but what she meant was clear at the time: she didn’t want “those people” growing in large numbers.

More recently Ginsburg refined her argument. As part of a discussion with Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow, Ginsburg responded to a question from the audience about “backlash” created by judicial decisions. Ginsburg began by making it clear she wasn’t, as she is often described, “against” Roe v. Wade. She said she was very much for the “judgment,” then pivoted to gently critique not the “what” but the “how.”

And then just a few days ago, speaking at the University of Chicago, Ginsburg ratcheted up her critique a bit. “For Ginsburg, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that affirmed a woman’s right to an abortion was too far-reaching and too sweeping, and it gave anti-abortion rights activists a very tangible target to rally against in the four decades since,” wrote Meredith Heagney.

“’My criticism of Roe is that it seemed to have stopped the momentum on the side of change,’ Ginsburg said. She would’ve preferred that abortion rights be secured more gradually, in a process that included state legislatures and the courts, she added. Ginsburg also was troubled that the focus on Roe was on a right to privacy, rather than women’s rights.

“’Roe isn’t really about the woman’s choice, is it?’ Ginsburg said. ‘It’s about the doctor’s freedom to practice…it wasn’t woman-centered, it was physician-centered.’”

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Greenberg agrees that the popular consensus at the time was captured in the headline that appeared in the New York Times the next day: “Supreme Court settles abortion issue.” But instead, Greenberg writes,

“Is there any great issue in American law that is less settled, or more unsettling, than Roe v. Wade? If so, it would be hard to think of one.

“Even the most fervent fans of abortion admit that today their cause is on the wane, that they’ve lost the moral initiative in this struggle to win the minds and hearts of the American people. And are losing more of us every day.”

Why the dramatic shift? In Greenberg’s view, it’s the impact of science. Roe has proven to be

“unviable. With every scientific advance — sonograms, neonatal medicine, centers for fetal diagnosis and treatment — Roe grows less and less tenable. And the euphemisms used to dehumanize the unborn child — zygote, blastocyst, fetus, ‘an undifferentiated mass of tissue’ — grow less and less convincing. How long before the Supreme Court of the United States wakes up?”

Indeed, we can hope that the same High Court, but with a more discerning set of justices, will awaken to the brutality it unleashed more than 40 years ago.

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