While speaking at Harvard Law School two weeks ago, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once again reiterated her criticism of the way the Roe v. Wade ruling was made, saying that the Court’s far-reaching decision made it a target for pro-lifers.
According to an op-ed by pro-life activist Jill Stanek appearing on LifeNews.com , Justice Ginsburg’s comments came as a result of a question from a student. He mentioned a particular class in which the professor asserted that some judicial decisions, such as in cases concerning abortion, the death penalty, and homosexual rights, can cause a large backlash in society.
“I was just curious whether you think that he was accurate, that court decisions can create large backlash and whether other movements should be wary of creating that through the court system,” the student asked.
Ginsburg responded by saying that she didn’t believe the pro-life movement started with Roe v. Wade, but that it had started before this. However, she added, “I do think that the way the Court went about reaching its decision did give them a target that they could aim at that they didn’t have before.”
She went on to clarify her position on Roe, which has always been critical of the Court’s timing and over-broad decision in the landmark case which she believes “went too far too fast.” Because of these comments, she’s often accused of being “against” Roe v. Wade.
“I’m not. I’m very much for the judgment that the Court rendered, dealing with what was the most extreme law in the country, where a woman could get an abortion only if it was necessary to save her life. Could be disastrous for her health and it wouldn’t matter,” she said.
At the time, however, the Court could easily have said, “‘We’ll deal with the Texas law. That’s what’s before us. We’ll declare that unconstitutional, because it’s much too far out in disregarding the situation of the woman. But we then put our pen down, and we wait for the next case,’ which is how the Court usually operates.”
Instead, it made an unusual judicial decision that “made every law in the country, even the most – quote liberal – unconstitutional in one fell swoop. And that’s not the way the Court ordinarily operates.”
Her criticism was not about the decision but about the “giant step” the court took instead of proceeding by slow degrees.
“Justice Ginsburg believes the Roe decision gave pro-lifers a ‘target’ to collectively aim at, rather than incohesively and much less powerfully spreading our energies among the states,” Stanek writes.
“Reading between the lines, Ginsburg believes there would be much less rancor about abortion had it slowly been eased into the public consciousness. This buttresses my thought that walking abortion back incrementally – as we are forced to do at present whether we like it or not – is a winning strategy.”
Ginsburg also made an interesting remark about how the Court should not be responsible for fixing society’s ills, saying that this must come from the people, not the judiciary.
“It’s rare that a court will move unless the people want them to,” Ginsburg said. “Before every major change, it was people who saw that the laws were wrong, wanted them to change, were fighting to capture other people’s minds, and then trying to get legislative change,” that pushed issues along. “Then the court is the last resort. … It has to be the people who want the change, and without them no change will be lasting.”
Stanek agrees. “In the case of Roe, people weren’t asking for the change. Only liberals were. They thought the change would cement legalized abortion. But it hasn’t. ”
The result is the abortion wars that have torn the country apart for the last four decades.
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