ACLU apologises for changing Ruth Bader Ginsburg quote to be gender-neutral

ACLU tweet on anniversary of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death swapped references to women to neutral pronouns

Sheila Flynn
in Denver
Tuesday 28 September 2021 23:06 BST
Texas Abortion Ban To Go Into Effect
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The ACLU has apologised for changing the wording of a Ruth Bader Ginsberg quote to include gender-neutral pronouns.

The civil rights organisation, on the first anniversary of the Supreme Court Justice’s death, tweeted: “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a [person’s] life, to [their] well-being and dignity ... When the government controls that decision for [people], [they are] being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for [their] own choices.”

The tweet changed the judge’s original references to “woman” and “her” to “they” and “their”.

In a piece dated five days later on the ACLU site, Louise Melling, legal director and director of Ruth Bader Ginsberg Center for Liberty, wrote: “Justice Ginsburg wrote about women and women’s equality as she spoke about abortion. (At the time, there was not yet a broader awareness of the importance of abortion for transgender men and nonbinary people.)”

The removal of Justice Ginsburg’s original reference to women sparked a social media backlash and was criticized this week by New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg.

She wrote that ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero told her that he regretted the tweet and said the organization would not drastically alter quotes from another individual going forward – but felt the late judge and trailblazer would have supported the sentiment behind making her quote gender-neutral.

"Having spent time with Justice Ginsburg, I would like to believe that if she were alive today, she would encourage us to evolve our language to encompass a broader vision of gender, identity and sexuality," Mr Romero told Ms Goldberg, who called the tweet a “mistake.”

The original quote was uttered by Ms Ginsburg during a 1993 hearing and referred to reproductive rights – and was tweeted by the ACLU not only in honour of the late justice but also as Texas’ controversial abortion ban further inflamed discussions about choice.

Ms Ginsburg, a native of Brooklyn, was the second female justice on the US Supreme Court and is credited with furthering the rights of women and underserved communities across America. She died last year at the age of 87.

New York Times columnist Ms Goldberg took issue with the ACLU’s decision to change any quotes from the ground-breaking judge, writing that “it was “somewhat Orwellian to rewrite historical utterances to conform to modern sensitivities.

"Changing Ginsburg’s words treats what was once a core feminist insight – that women are oppressed on the basis of their reproductive capacity – as an embarrassing anachronism."

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