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'False Reading' of Roe v. Wade Must Not Impede Progress on Marriage Equality, New York Times Editorial

'False Reading' of Roe v. Wade Must Not Impede Progress on Marriage Equality, New York Times Editorial Argues

April 3, 2013 — Opponents of same-sex marriage have wrongly "latched on" to remarks by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that the court's Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion "'moved too far, too fast,'" a New York Times editorial states. Ginsburg's comments are being used to "argue that a toxic multidecade backlash against abortion rights could have been avoided if the court had given states more time to act -- supposedly a cautionary lesson for marriage equality," the editorial adds.

However, the "real story" about the landmark abortion-rights case -- as argued in a book by Yale University professors Linda Greenhouse and Reva Siegel -- "is that political conflict over abortion was escalating before the Roe decision, and that state progress on decriminalization had reached a standstill in the face of opposition from the Roman Catholic Church," the editorial explains. It adds, "Had the Supreme Court waited for the states to move, women in a large portion of the country would still be denied the fundamental right to make their own childbearing decisions."

The editorial also refutes "[t]he claim that the court invited a backlash by getting too far ahead of public opinion." The editorial cites a Gallup poll conducted at the time of the Roe ruling in which a "substantial majority" of U.S. residents said they supported abortion rights. As Greenhouse and Siegel argue, the "political polarization around abortion owes more to political realignment and the vehemence and perseverance of abortion opponents than general public anger at the court's ruling," according to the editorial.

"There is bound to be conflict and opposition when minorities pursue their rights, whether legislatively, in the voting booth or in the courts," the editorial states. However, "overblown fears of a backlash based on a false reading of politics before and after Roe v. Wade" should not prevent the Supreme Court from "enforcing equal protection by declaring same-sex marriage a constitutionally protected right in every state," it concludes (New York Times, 4/2).