Justice Ginsburg: Roe v. Wade let “unelected old men” overrule the people on abortion

The outspoken pro-abortion justice said overturning the 1973 decision is “not going to matter that much.”
Mon May 13, 2013 - 9:01 pm EST

CHICAGO, May 13, 2013 ( – The Roe v. Wade decision received criticism from an unusual source this weekend: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The Roe decision overruled the democratic will with a decision handed down by "unelected old men," she said Saturday at the University of Chicago Law School.

The 80-year-old justice said the 1973 decision, which together with Doe v. Bolton legalized abortion until the ninth month of pregnancy, was too sweeping. She would have preferred the court struck down only the Texas law in question without affecting other states.


The top-down judicial mandate galvanized opposition to abortion and reversed the trend toward liberalizing abortion laws around the nation that prevailed until that time.

“My criticism of Roe is that it seemed to have stopped the momentum that was on the side of change,” she said. Instead, the court should have “put its stamp of approval on the side of change and let that change develop in the political process."

Conversely, she complained that Justice Harry Blackmun's decision did not go far enough.

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Ginsburg, a former leader of the ACLU, told students she wishes the High Court's first ruling on abortion forthrightly affirmed a woman's right to abortion instead of the alleged “right to privacy.”

The Roe decision "wasn't woman-centered,” she said. “It was physician-centered."

As a lawyer Ginsburg represented a pregnant member of the military stationed in Vietnam, in the hopes of legalizing abortion nationwide via judicial fiat. Ultimately, justices declined to hear Struck v. Secretary of Defense.

If the 1973 landmark decision is overturned, “it's not going to matter that much" she said. Even in “the worst-case scenario,” regulation of abortion would simply return to the 50 states, and “you would have a number of states that will never go back to the way it was."

Her comments flew in the face of the nation's abortion lobby, which for decades has warned of dire consequences if Roe is reversed.

Napp Nazworth of The Christian Post noted that many of Ginsburg's arguments about incrementalism could be applied to same-sex “marriage,” an issue the court is currently deciding.

  roe v. wade, ruth bader ginsburg, supreme court

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