Reporting on the upcoming confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr., a New York Times article by David D. Kirkpatrick left the impression that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg did not explicitly state her pro-choice position on abortion rights during her 1993 Senate confirmation. Interviewing conservative Free Congress Foundation chairman Paul Weyrich on the prospect of a contested nomination, Kirkpatrick wrote:
''I think it is going to be hard for the left to fight him,'' said Paul Weyrich, chairman of the Free Congress Foundation. Recalling Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's refusal to answer questions in her confirmation hearings about cases she filed as a lawyer arguing for abortion rights, Mr. Weyrich said, ''If he [Roberts] just refuses to answer the way Ruth Bader Ginsburg did, I don't think they [liberal groups] have anything they can complain about.''
Kirkpatrick did not challenge Weyrich's false suggestion that Ginsburg refused to answer any questions on abortion. Moreover, while it's true that Ginsburg refused to address specific abortion-related cases during her hearing, Kirkpatrick failed to note that she did explicitly affirm her general commitment to protecting the right to an abortion. When then-Sen. Hank Brown (R-CO) asked whether the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause protected a woman's right to have an abortion, Ginsburg replied:
[The right to an abortion] is something central to a woman's life, to her dignity. It's a decision that she must make for herself. And when government controls that decision for her, she's being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.
As the confirmation hearings for Roberts approach, conservatives may continue to argue that he can refuse to answer questions aimed at determining his view on abortion rights, because Ginsburg allegedly refused to do so during her hearings. This argument is demonstrably false, and journalists should not allow it to go unchallenged in their reporting.