In 1927, he wrote a letter to his friend, Harold Laski, telling him, "I ... delivered an opinion upholding the constitutionality of a state law for sterilizing imbeciles the other day -- and felt that I was getting near the first principle of real reform." That was the year he wrote the majority opinion in Buck v. Bell (joined by Louis Brandeis) holding that forcibly sterilizing lower-class women was constitutional. In recent years, openly discussing the notion of eugenic aspects of abortion has become taboo. But as Ginsburg's comments suggest, the taboo hasn't eliminated the idea; it's merely sent it underground.
To be sure, some heterodox liberals speak up. The writer Nicholas von Hoffman has written: "Free, cheap abortion is a policy of social defense. To save ourselves from being murdered in our beds and raped on the streets, we should do everything possible to encourage pregnant women who don't want the baby and will not take care of it to get rid of the thing before it turns into a monster. ..."
In 1992, Ron Weddington, co-counsel in the Roe v. Wade case, wrote a letter to President-elect Clinton, imploring him to rush RU-486 -- a.k.a. "the abortion pill" -- to market as quickly as possible.
"(Y)ou can start immediately to eliminate the barely educated, unhealthy and poor segment of our country," Weddington insisted. All the president had to do was make abortion cheap and easy for the populations we don't want. "It's what we all know is true, but we only whisper it. ... Think of all the poverty, crime and misery ... and then add 30 million unwanted babies to the scenario. We lost a lot of ground during the Reagan-Bush religious orgy. We don't have a lot of time left."
Weddington offered a clue about who, in particular, he had in mind: "For every Jesse Jackson who has fought his way out of the poverty of a large family, there are millions mired in poverty, drugs and crime." Ah, right. Jesse Jackson. Got it.
Unlike Bazelon, I for one would like to know whether Ginsburg believes there were -- or are -- some populations in need of shrinking through abortion and whether she thinks such considerations have any place at the Supreme Court.
And while we're at it, it would be interesting to know what Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor thinks about such things.