WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - Former president Bill Clinton has publicly admitted that abortion was at the forefront of his mind when choosing Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a Supreme Court pick. He also indicated she may have spoken falsehoods to Congress in her nomination hearings.
At a Georgetown University Law Center event on Wednesday, sitting on stage beside his wife Hillary and Ginsburg herself, Clinton admitted what every president since Roe v. Wade has publicly denied — that abortion was a main reason for his choosing a Supreme Court nominee.
"There is one thing that we did discuss and I feel that I should tell you because it will illustrate why I thought I should appoint her," Clinton admitted. "Abortion was a big issue in 1992. … In this election I was one of the first Democrats to run, 'pro-choice' Democrats to run since Roe v. Wade, who actually benefited from Roe v. Wade because the Webster decision frightened the other side."
The "other side" Clinton spoke of are those who supported legalized abortion. The Webster decision he referred to is the 1989 Supreme Court ruling on a Missouri law whose preamble included, "the life of each human being begins at conception," and "unborn children have protectable interests in life, health, and well-being." The Supreme Court upheld a state's right to prohibit abortion after viability, among other things.
Abortion, at the forefront of most Americans' minds in the Roe era, always comes up in congressional hearings during the Supreme Court nomination process. Usually, nominees refuse to divulge their judicial stance and deny any conversation on the subject with the president that appointed them. But, as Clinton recounted, Ginsburg's case was different:
[Ginsburg] knew this perfectly well, that I was under a lot of pressure to make sure I appointed someone who was simon-pure, which I had said I thought was important…. I asked her the question and she talked about it just as if it was any other issue, no affect: "This is what I think, this is why I think it," and she made a heck of a case.
What Clinton asked Ginsburg about was her stance on abortion, having read what she had previously written on it. Ginsburg sided with Roe not from the standpoint of liberty, which the ruling was based on, but on the equal protection clause of the Constitution — a perspective that impressed Clinton.
Hillary Clinton, who reportedly is considering jumping into the 2020 presidential race in time for the Democratic primaries, was sitting between Ginsburg and her husband. She was eager to take some of the credit for this.
"I knew that of all the people who were part of the women's movement she was one of the key players because of her creative understanding of the law and her sense of commitment," she said.
Although a justice's role is to interpret the Constitution as it applies to cases, the former first lady chose to emphasize her "creative understanding" of law.
"I may have expressed an opinion or two about the people he should bring to the top of the list," she added with a smile.
"Roe has pretty strong precedential weight by now," she stated. "In Casey [a 1992 Supreme Court decision], the issue was squarely before the Court. The Court said no, we will not overrule Roe."
Contemplating whether Roe will be overturned during or after her reign as justice, Ginsburg conceded, "We have no crystal ball," adding that "a second direct confrontation may be ahead. If so, the odds, I think, are in favor of it not being successful."
Donald Trump in his first term of office has chosen two justices whom he believes will interpret the Constitution directly as written rather than be ideologically "creative."
The Supreme Court today is split in this respect, and the next justice may tip rulings in a different philosophical direction.
If Trump is re-elected, there is a strong chance that Roe will be reconsidered in the light of modern science and technology, which is now more clearly indicative of when an individual human life begins.
Although there are three standing Supreme Court justices over the age of 70, Ginsburg has been the specific focus of many Court watchers because of her age (86) and health.