My friend Hampton alerted me to a Michael Gerson column in the Washington Post that recounts comments made by Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the U.S. Supreme Court on abortion. Her remarks were in an interview that she did with the New York Times magazine, and are genuinely amazing in a person of her position:

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 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.” (Emphasis added.]

Medicaid, you’ll remember, serves poor people, and a disproportionately large number of people of color. What she seems to be saying is that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about over-population (which there was, even if the concern was misguided), and that this concern was especially about certain kinds of undesirable populations. Evidently, she means that Roe was meant, in part, to help effectuate a reduction in the population of poor people, which would especially mean minorities. Which is another way of saying that Roe was meant by its advocates, in part, as a continuation of the eugenic policies of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood.

Now, I’m not saying that Justice Ginsburg is a racist, or that she hates poor people. Though she uses the word “we,” it’s not at all clear whether she agreed with this eugenic agenda, or was merely describing what the generalized thinking was behind the movement to legalize abortion. But there is no question that the unfettered abortion license has had a disproportionate impact on those groups of people, as Sanger wanted it to and as supporters of abortion rights may well have thought it would. Even if Justice Ginsburg was not putting her stamp of approval on such thinking, it’s revealing that a person who used to be chief litigator of the ACLU’s women’s rights project, and thus a fervent abortion rights advocate, would speak out loud about the eugenic mindset of many in the movement.