The recent spurt of pro-life legislation on the state level has gotten a great deal of attention. That also means that more and more attention will be focused on the abortion cases that will come before the Supreme Court.
The latest case produced a disappointing result. Formally called Box v. Planned Parenthood, it involved two laws from Indiana, one that required a respectful disposition of the human remains produced by abortion, and the other banning abortions motivated by race, sex or disability. The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit struck down both laws based on the Supreme Court’s prior abortion decisions, and the state then asked the Supreme Court to take the case.
There was a great deal of anticipation that this case might provide a vehicle for the Court to revisit its abortion jurisprudence, perhaps to expand the ability of legislatures to regulate it or even to review or reverse Roe v. Wade. Those hopes turned out to be unfounded. The Court did reverse the lower court and reinstated the human remains law. This is a good result—the more respect we show for human remains, the more respect we show for the humans who have died. This law thus serves a good purpose of reminding us of the humanity and dignity of unborn children.
But the unanimous Court refused to consider or reinstate the anti-discrimination law. It thus remains permissible to abort a baby solely because it is black, female, or has a disability or some unwanted trait. This is a tragic missed opportunity.
Nevertheless, there was a very important part of this decision—the concurring opinion of Justice Clarence Thomas. He is a vastly underrated jurist. If one were to listen to the media, the only thing he is known for is his silence during oral arguments before the Supreme Court or the controversy that arose during his confirmation. But in reality, he is a man of great intellect, principle and integrity, and his opinions are always worth reading because they are so well-done, and so clear about the authentic meaning of the Constitution.
In this case, Justice Thomas took the Court—and our nation—to school about the evil eugenics movement, and its historic and continuing involvement in the effort to keep abortion legal. He specifically called out the malign roots of Planned Parenthood and the appalling values of Margaret Sanger and other major figures in the birth control, pro-abortion, and eugenics movement.
Justice Thomas’ opinion is worth reading in full, but I will quote some of its most important parts that dealt with the anti-discrimination law. (Justice Thomas’ words will be in italics, I have done some mild editing).
The basic premise of the case was presented very plainly: “this law and other laws like it promote a State’s compelling interest in preventing abortion from becoming a tool of modern-day eugenics.”
Make no mistake about eugenics. It is an inherently evil mindset, and typically uses language that would horrify modern readers. For example, as Justice Thomas noted: “As a social theory, eugenics is rooted in social Darwinism i.e., the application of the ‘survival of the fittest’ principle to human society.” Sanger herself was an enthusiastic supporter of eugenics and was openly in favor of limiting the ability of certain parts of the population to reproduce because “the unbalance between the birth rate of the ‘unfit’ and the ‘fit’ was ‘the greatest present menace to civilization.'” (quoting Sanger) This repulsive notion that there is “too many of them” is at the heart of eugenics.
This “threat” perceived by the eugenicists was unabashedly racist. “Many eugenicists believed that the distinction between the fit and the unfit could be drawn along racial lines”. Sanger herself particularly targeted black communities for birth control, and even initiated a “Negro project” to promote a reduction in black births. She was once famously photographed giving a speech to a group of the Ku Klux Klan and bought off black ministers to allay the concerns of their flocks. “In [Sanger’s] view, birth-control advocates and eugenicists were ‘seeking a single end’ ‘to assist the race toward the elimination of the unfit.'” (quoting Sanger)
But eugenics was not just racist—it sought to eliminate other people deemed unacceptable or flawed. “Although race was relevant, eugenicists did not define a person’s ‘fitness’ exclusively by race. A typical list of dysgenic individuals would also include some combination of the ‘feeble-minded,’ ‘insane,’ ‘criminalistic,’ ‘deformed,’ ‘crippled,’ ‘epileptic,’ ‘inebriate,’ ‘diseased, ”blind,’ ‘deaf,’ and ‘dependent (including orphans and paupers).” You can imagine how such invidious and subjective terms would be interpreted by ideologues obsessed with purifying the race. Indeed, this attitude was so widespread in the early part of the 20nth Century that it led to the enactment of eugenic laws in a majority of the states (including New York) and the involuntary sterilization of over 60,000 Americans—the last one as recently as 1983.
It also led directly to the legalization of abortion. Justice Thomas noted that “From the beginning, birth control and abortion were promoted as means of effectuating eugenics.” In fact, “some eugenicists believed that abortion should be legal for the very purpose of promoting eugenics.” Noted figures affiliated with Planned Parenthood were explicit in pursuing these goals.
It must also be clear that we are not just talking about abstract principles, possible future horrors, or ancient history. We are talking about current events. “This case highlights the fact that abortion is an act rife with the potential for eugenic manipulation.” At the present time, from around the world, “a growing body of evidence suggests that eugenic goals are already being realized through abortion.”
Justice Thomas specifically cited horrifying statistics about the systematic genocide of children with Down Syndrome: 100% in Iceland, 98% in Denmark, 90% in the United Kingdom, 77% in France, and 67% in the United States. Any woman who has had an adverse fetal diagnosis knows this—the pressure to terminate the pregnancy begins immediately upon delivery of the news. He also noted the widespread incidence of sex-selection abortions in Asia, which “have led to as many as 160 million ‘missing’ women more than the entire female population of the United States.” So much for pro-abortion advocates being pro-woman.
And he also highlighted the disproportionate impact of abortion on American blacks. The extremely high abortion rate among blacks in our nation is 3.5 times higher than among whites, and in some areas of New York City there are more abortions than live births among blacks. Justice Thomas sardonically noted that “insofar as abortion is viewed as a method of ‘family planning,’ black people do indeed take the brunt of the planning.” Usually, such a disproportionate impact would lead to outcries against racist policies. Yet when it comes to abortion, those voices are strangely silent.
When this anti-discrimination law was enacted, “Planned Parenthood promptly filed a lawsuit to block the law from going into effect, arguing that the Constitution categorically protects a woman’s right to abort her child based solely on the child’s race, sex, or disability”. Consequently, the position of Planned Parenthood and all those pro-abortion advocates who stood with them “would constitutionalize the views of the 20th-century eugenics movement”. This is directly contradictory to the herculean efforts in our nation over the past decades to eliminate racist, sexist and anti-disability discrimination in all other areas of the law and society. That is the price that pro-abortion forces want us to pay, to keep abortion legal.
In his opinion, Justice Thomas did the nation a great service by tearing back the curtain that hides the true wickedness of the pro-abortion movement. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court—including those Justices who are considered pro-life—has once again shown that it has no enthusiasm for revisiting or overturning the evil abortion regime it established in Roe or repudiating the ugly legacy of eugenics.
The battle for a Culture of Life goes on.