The American Civil Liberties Union is apologizing after erasing "she" and "her" pronouns from a statement by the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. On the anniversary of her death, the organization reinterpreted a quote Ginsburg gave on reproductive rights during her Senate confirmation hearings in 1993. Ginsburg 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." But the ACLU replaced "woman" with "person" and replaced "she" and "her" with "they" and "their" in a Sept. 18 tweet.
An uproar followed. Bloomberg columnist Eli Lake said the change, which the ACLU indicated through brackets, was "hilarious and chilling," per Fox News. New York Post columnist Karol Markowicz said it was "grotesque to write women out of history as if we don’t matter," while New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg called it "a ham-handed attempt to make the quote conform to current progressive norms around gender neutrality." She continued Monday, "a gender-neutral version of Ginsburg's quote is unintelligible, because she was talking not about the right of all people to pursue their own reproductive destiny, but about how male control of women’s reproductive lives makes women part of a subordinate class."
Goldberg wrote that ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero told her he regretted the change but believed Ginsburg "would encourage us to evolve our language to encompass a broader vision of gender, identity and sexuality" if she were still alive. He elaborated Tuesday, telling the Times that the ACLU "won’t be altering people's quotes" going forward. He said the alteration "was a mistake among the digital team" but it "was not a mistake without a thought." "My colleagues do a fantastic job of trying to understand a reality that people who seek abortions are not only women. That reality exists," he went on. But "in today's America, language sometimes needs to be rethought." (Read more American Civil Liberties Union stories.)