Justice Ginsburg's comment last Saturday to University of Chicago law students that the landmark U.S. Supreme Court abortion decision, Roe v. Wade, was too broadly written understandably has received national attention. Less attention has been paid to her identification of the case she says she wishes the Court had taken up instead -- Struck v. Secretary of Defense. ABA Journal describes the case:
The plaintiff Susan Struck, an Air Force captain had become pregnant while on duty in Vietnam—a violation of military regulations—and was suing to avoid being discharged from the Air Force. Abortions were legal on military bases at the time, but Struck—although she was a nurse—had not considered that alternative because of her religious beliefs. Thus the issue involved Struck’s right to resist a government-sanctioned abortion to avoid her discharge from the service. It was a choice Ginsburg thinks would have better framed a woman’s constitutional right as a choice no man would be required to endure.
“I wish that (Struck) had been the first case,” said Ginsburg. “I think the court would have better understood.”
The case was granted certiorari, but was rendered moot later when the military agreed to waive Struck’s discharge. Ginsburg said she tried to revive the case, and even asked Struck if there were any issues of inequality that might allow the case to move forward. Struck said she had been denied the chance to become a pilot.
“We all laughed,” said Ginsburg. “In 1972 that was still an impossible dream.”
Coincidentally, NPR on Saturday aired an interview with Jeannie Leavitt, the first female U.S. fighter pilot.