Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Sandra Day O'Connor may have changed the shape of Roe v. Wade

A woman on the bench may have "influenced the way the decision was explained," according to Ginsburg

By Katie McDonough
September 16, 2013 9:21PM (UTC)
main article image

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court and one of its most outspoken members, has generated a considerable amount of controversy with past remarks on Roe v. Wade.

Earlier this year, Ginsburg received a lot of pushback from legal scholars and reproductive rights advocates for a series of statements she made arguing that the Roe decision "went too far, too fast." Ginsburg argued that, rather than stopping at striking down the Texas law criminalizing virtually all abortions, the court "short-circuited" the political process and got "far ahead of public opinion" by establishing a constitutional right to an abortion.


Ginsburg said that the decision "had given opponents of access to abortion a target to aim at relentlessly" and "seemed to have stopped the momentum that was on the side of change.”

In a Monday interview with John Hockenberry on "The Takeaway," Ginsburg once again shared her view of the decision, this time arguing that the ruling may have been explained differently had Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to serve on the high court, been on the bench at the time:

As the second woman to sit on the Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg says that some the previously all-male Court may have written or decided cases differently with a woman on the bench. As for Roe v. Wade, Ginsburg notes Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and says, "The Casey decision had a very different tone. It centered on the woman, not on the doctor-patient relationship, and it isn’t divided into trimesters. So I think looking back from that decision we can say yes, if Justice O’Connor had been on [the 1973] Court maybe she would have influenced the way the decision was explained."

You can listen to the full exchange here:


Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

MORE FROM Katie McDonoughFOLLOW kmcdonovgh

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Abortion Abortion Rights Roe V. Wade Ruth Bader Ginsburg Video