It’s not often an organization like ours, the “Culture of Life Foundation,” has occasion to say something like this, but. . . Thank Heaven for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She has done us all an invaluable service and, in the process, has reminded all of us who support “life” precisely why we fight the fights we do and what they ultimately mean.
As you may or may not have heard, last month, Justice Ginsburg, the 81-year-old who is the constant object of retirement rumors, gave a long and wide-ranging interview to the fashion magazine Elle. Among other topics, the Court’s longest serving liberal Justice discussed abortion, the protection of which has effectively been her raison d’être since her appointment more than two decades ago. The key bit in Ginsburg’s interview came as she lamented the recent ruling in the contraception/religious liberty case, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. Specifically, she said:
I think on the issue of choice, one of the reasons, to be frank, that there’s not so much pro-choice activity is that young women, including my daughter and my granddaughter, have grown up in a world where they know if they need an abortion, they can get it. Not that either one of them has had one, but it’s comforting to know if they need it, they can get it.
The impact of all these restrictions is on poor women, because women who have means, if their state doesn’t provide access, another state does. I think that the country will wake up and see that it can never go back to [abortions just] for women who can afford to travel to a neighboring state. . .
It makes no sense as a national policy to promote birth only among poor people.
This is, to put it mildly, a bold and shockingly frank statement. It makes no sense, Ginsburg said, to restrict abortion, because the impact of these restrictions hit the poor hardest, which is to say that they ensure more poor babies and thus increase the population of these least desirables relative to the rest of the population.
You may recall that just five years ago, Ginsburg was even blunter on the subject, telling the New York Times about her surprise at the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of taxpayer dollars to provide abortion services. You see, she had always figured that taxpayer-funded abortions for the poor was part of the plan, a BIG part of the plan. “Frankly,” she told the Times’ Emily Bazelon, “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. [Emphasis added]. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion.”
National Review’s Kevin Williamson noted that this perspective on abortion is “what by any intellectually honest standard must be described as eugenics.” It reflects a desire to use abortion as a means to control the population of those for whom society has the least use and lowest appreciation. This is, you’ll note, a rather sinister perspective, one that is light years removed from the wholesome happy talk of “choice” and “women’s health” that dominates our sanitized political discussions of abortion today. More to the point, it’s also a much more honest perspective, one which Williamson notes was once far more commonplace on the Pro-“Choice” side of the argument. To wit:
She [Ginsburg] was correct in her assessment of Roe; the co-counsel in that case, Ron Weddington, would later advise President Bill Clinton: “You can start immediately to eliminate the barely educated, unhealthy, and poor segment of our country,” by making abortifacients cheap and universally available. “It’s what we all know is true, but we only whisper it.”
The fact of the matter is that legal abortion was always viewed by its earliest advocates – from the British Fabians to the American Progressives – primarily as a means by which to right the racial, social and economic imbalances of contemporary society. It is worth remembering, we think, that the most ardent early advocates of abortion were also eugenicists. Intellectuals like H.G. Wells and activists like Margaret Sanger believed both in legal abortion and in its power to remake society into the image of its superior classes (and races!). Indeed, Sanger saw abortion as the means for eliminating those “inferior races” that she considered “human weeds” and a “menace to civilization.” Or, as she elaborated:
As an advocate of birth control I wish . . . to point out that the unbalance between the birth rate of the “unfit” and the “fit,” admittedly the greatest present menace to civilization, can never be rectified by the inauguration of a cradle competition between these two classes. In this matter, the example of the inferior classes, the fertility of the feebleminded, the mentally defective, the poverty-stricken classes, should not be held up for emulation.
We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.
Over the next few weeks, and then again over the following 24 months leading up to the 2016 presidential election, we will all be subjected to a great deal of rhetorical scolding about “women’s health,” the “war on women,” and countless other euphemisms used to distract voters from the horror of abortion. This is unfortunate, not just from a moral perspective but from a cultural perspective as well. We suspect – though would admittedly be hard-pressed to prove – that the vast majority of voters born after Roe v. Wade have no idea that abortion is, was, and ever shall be first and foremost a means of population control and “undesirable” population control specifically. The rhetoric supporting the notion that abortion is about choice, freedom, liberation, and, more recently, health, has been pervasive over the last four decades. In the mainstream press, in entertainment, in education – in most of the major cultural institutions, in short – this idea of abortion being exclusively linked to the well-being of women has gone largely unchallenged. To reprise Ron Weddington’s axiom, that which was once only whispered, has been almost entirely eliminated from the public consciousness.
All of which brings us to our appreciation for Justice Ginsburg. Not only did she speak openly to Elle magazine, she spoke candidly, which is to say that she spoke the truth that most of her fellow abortion advocates would prefer never be spoken again. She conceded that abortion is not the joyous celebration of liberty that our culture insists it is. And for that, we are exceptionally grateful.
Now we can only hope that the voters will hear what she said and acknowledge the truth that our “national policy” is a horror show.