The leader of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) apologized Monday night for honoring the one-year anniversary of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing by removing references to women in a quote about women and abortion. The alteration appears to have been a bizarre attempt at making the late justice’s words more inclusive.
“We won’t be altering people’s quotes,” Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, told The New York Times on Monday evening. “It was a mistake among the digital team. Changing quotes is not something we ever did.”
Last week, the organization decided to tweet an altered version of the quote and received intense backlash for it.
The original quote, which the ACLU was fine repeating on its website in the original last year — reads: “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. … 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 digital team decided to remove the gendered language from the quote so it would read: “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,” reads the text of the ACLU’s tweet, which put brackets around the words they inserted.
Although Romero said the mistake would not happen again, he appeared to justify the alteration as well-intentioned, telling The New York Times that it “was not a mistake without a thought.” The tweet was still online as of Monday night.
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
“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,” Romero told the Times.
Other left-wing language changes have appeared around the topic of women as well.
On Monday, an editor for The Lancet, a prestigious medical journal, apologized to “those who were offended” by the recent issue cover, which used the phrase “bodies with vaginas.” The editor, however, also said he wanted “to emphasise that transgender health is an important dimension of modern health care, but one that remains neglected,” and encouraged people to read the full article (which did use the word “women” a handful of times).
And earlier this year, Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) invoked the phrase “birthing people” when talking about maternal health. She also used the phrase “menstruating person.”