One might expect one of the most liberal members of the Supreme Court to praise the Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized a women’s right to choose. But over the weekend, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made headlines for candidly discussing the landmark 1973 ruling, saying it went too far and gave anti-choice protesters a symbol to target.
“That was my concern, that the court had given opponents of access to abortion a target to aim at relentlessly,” Ginsburg told a group of students at the University of Chicago Law School on Saturday, according to the Associated Press. “My criticism of Roe is that it seemed to have stopped the momentum that was on the side of change.”
This isn’t the first time she’s spoken out about the case. “She has repeatedly over the years expressed her concern that the Roe decision was problematic. She said something similar, though not quite as explicit, earlier this year,” NBC News Justice Correspondent Pete Williams told msnbc.com.
While she supports a woman's right to legally obtain an abortion, Ginsburg expressed a degree of disappointment at how the case shook out. She said she would have preferred a narrower decision that simply struck down the Texas law in question, which only allowed abortions to save the mother’s life.
She argued the more sweeping ruling fueled efforts by opponents to put more restrictions on abortion within individual states in the long-run and “judicial restraint” would have been more effective, especially during a time when many states were looking to expand women’s rights.
"The court can put its stamp of approval on the side of change and let that change develop in the political process," Ginsburg said.
Many court watchers are wondering how the Supreme Court will handle its latest high profile case, the much anticipated ruling on marriage equality. It has been dubbed the “Roe v. Wade of marriage” by some religious organizations as a battle cry.
Don’t read too much into Ginsburg’s comments as far as speculation on a possible marriage equality verdict, warns Williams.
“It’s impossible to know what, if anything, it would mean for how the court decides the same-sex marriage cases,” he said. “It seemed clear from the oral argument that the court is not prepared to issue any kind of sweeping decision on the constitutionality argument. No one is really expecting either case will become the Roe v Wade of gay rights.”
President Clinton appointed Ginsburg to the job in 1993, making her the second female justice in the court’s history.