The head of the ACLU has apologized after his org altered a quote from late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, stripping it of all reference to gender despite the fact the passage specifically centered on childbearing.
Apparently meant to pay homage to the late justice, a September 18 tweet from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) relayed a 1993 Ginsburg quote defending women’s right to have abortions. However, in place of the words “woman’s,” “she” and “her,” the civil liberties group decided to editorialize, using the gender-neutral terms “persons” and “their” instead.
With Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, we lost a champion for abortion and gender equality. And on the anniversary of her death, the fight to protect abortion access is more urgent than ever. pic.twitter.com/vIKadIHouN— ACLU (@ACLU) September 18, 2021
The removal of all references to gender from the passage sparked some public backlash, even among pundits in the corporate media. On Monday, the New York Times ran a column blasting the decision, titled simply “The ACLU Errs on RBG,” using a popular acronym for Ginsburg’s name. In it, the ACLU’s executive director Anthony Romero was quoted as saying he “regrets” the September 18 tweet, and later told the Times for a separate story that the org “won’t be altering people’s quotes” in the future.
It was a mistake among the digital team. Changing quotes is not something we ever did.
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However, Romero nonetheless divined that, “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.”
The iconic quote cited in the ACLU’s tweet was excerpted from a 1993 speech on the Senate floor, in which Ginsburg broke with the typically reserved commentary from SCOTUS justices and gave a forceful defense of her view of abortion rights.
I'm not sure there is a single person who would've gotten angry at you for leaving her quote intact, with "woman" and "her".— Spike Cohen (@RealSpikeCohen) September 23, 2021
It's literally what she said.
“The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices,” she said – in her own words – at the time.
Why are you changing her words? If you honor her, why do you think she needs to have her language altered?— Robert Woolley (@RandomlyBob) September 22, 2021
Beyond the mainstream media, a number of observers online also took issue with the ACLU’s creative license, some asking why a civil rights organization would “censor” a quotation and “make RBG say something she didn’t say?”
Great work, guys! In a similar style, I’ve slightly rewritten Dr King’s famous ‘I have a dream’ speech. pic.twitter.com/4PmhiPpUro— Ben Cooper (@bencooper) September 23, 2021
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