Does Ruth Bader Ginsburg Support Eugenics?

A recent interview raises questions about her beliefs around abortion as population control.

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By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

A curious comment that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made in a weekend interview with the New York Times Magazine is getting lots of attention in the conservative blogosphere, casting a light on abortion jurisprudence just as nominee Sonia Sotomayor begins taking questions in the Senate.

I wouldn't be surprised if Ginsburg's quote was invoked by a Republican senator or a conservative witness during Sotomayor's hearing.

Ginsburg was responding to a question about access to abortion and a 1980 Supreme Court decision that upheld the Hyde Amendment, which bars Medicaid for funding abortion:

Q: Are you talking about the distances women have to travel because in parts of the country, abortion is essentially unavailable, because there are so few doctors and clinics that do the procedure? And also, the lack of Medicaid for abortions for poor women?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Yes, the ruling about that surprised me. [Harris v. McRae—in 1980 the court upheld the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of Medicaid for abortions.] 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. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion....

Conservatives have pounced on the lines as evidence that Ginsburg supports eugenics, or selective human breeding. "Who might those populations be, Justice Ginsburg?" asked the Family Research Council in its daily E-mail to supporters last night. "The poor? Minorities? Persons with disabilities? Residents of Appalachia?"

There's been much less chatter about this on liberal blogs, but Media Matters argues that Ginsburg was speaking about public opinion about Roe and abortion, not about her own opinion.

And yet Ginsburg shares the position that she says follows from a belief in abortion-as-population control: that Medicaid ought to fund abortions for poor women.

Still, Ginsburg isn't 100 percent clear that she's personally sympathetic to the view that abortion should be used to control the growth of certain populations.

How do you interpret Ginsburg's remarks?