NRL News

Pro-abortion Justice Ginsburg on Roe, Casey, and retirement

by | Feb 17, 2015

By Dave Andrusko

MSNBC’s Irin Carmon interviewing Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

MSNBC’s Irin Carmon interviewing Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

There are some prerogatives if you are co-authoring a book about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. For example, you get to interview her at the Supreme Court and act like chums, as was the case with MSNBC’s Irin Carmon.

I’ve only seen the transcript of the entire interview, not the actual interview that appeared Monday on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.” I hope to do that later today. In the meanwhile let’s talk about a few of the more interesting insights into Justice Ginsburg that came out of the interview.

#1. How appropriate in describing the status of abortion laws prior to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that Ginsburg would radically understate what the situation was–just as the breadth and depth of Roe is minimized to this day.

Justice Ginsburg told Carmon

Remember that before Roe v. Wade was decided, there were four states that allowed abortion in the first trimester if that’s what the woman sought. New York, Hawaii, California, Alaska.

Truth be told, abortion was essentially legal on demand in those states throughout almost the entirety of the second trimester.

#2. Most pro-abortionists rent their garments at the thought of the 1992 Casey decision which pried open the door allowing the passage of commonsensical pro-life measures that heretofore the High Court had rejected. Ginsburg has a different—or additional—take. (Her response was in the context of whether the Court would overturn Roe and Ginsburg cited the Court’s adherence to precedent in explaining why she thought they wouldn’t.)

They gave a reason [in Casey], a rationale that was absent in Roe v. Wade itself. Roe v. Wade was as much about a doctor’s right to practice his profession as he sees fit. And the image was the doctor and a little woman standing together. We never saw the woman alone. The Casey decision recognized that this is not as much about a doctor’s right to practice his profession, but about a woman’s right to control her life destiny.

Surely it was true that if you read Justice Blackmun’s opinions in Roe (and the companion case, Doe v. Bolton), it was at least as much about deference to physicians as it was to extending the “right” to abortion to women.

In Casey, by contrast, some of the justices soared off into metaphysical ramblings—specifically in its so-called “mystery passage.”

They asserted that the abortion liberty is necessary in order “to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

“Beliefs about these matters,” says the Court, “could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.”

#3. Ginsburg gave no hint she has any intention of retiring soon. “I’m concerned about doing the job full steam,” she told Carmon. “And I’ve said many times, once I sense that I am slipping, I will step down.”

As you may remember, periodically “liberals” will suggest she step down so that President Obama could nominate her successor. The last time Ginsburg addressed this idea she was pretty hostile.

In her interview with Carmon, asked “what you want your successor to look like?,” Ginsburg responded, “My successor will be the choice of whatever president is sitting at that time.” And

#4. Carmon asks, “And when the time comes, what would you like to be remembered for?” Justice Ginsburg answered

Someone who used whatever talent she had, to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has.

But in the abortion context, Ginsburg did not help repair tears. In her work at the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, she helped pave the way for Roe and Doe.

In her many years on the bench, she has helped delay the day when the deep gash in our hearts and our Constitution is mended.

You can read the entire interview here.

Editor’s note. If you want to peruse stories all day long, either go directly to and/or follow me on Twitter at

Categories: Roe v. Wade