U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s opinion slamming eugenic abortions in a recent Indiana case struck a nerve with abortion advocates this week.
The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Salon and others ran articles and columns arguing that the conservative justice was wrong about the connection between abortion and eugenics.
Though the Supreme Court declined to hear the Indiana case Tuesday, Thomas wrote a strong opinion with his concerns about the eugenic applications of abortion. The Indiana law in question would ban discriminatory abortions that target an unborn baby because of their sex, race or a disability.
His 20-page opinion took readers through a history of the eugenics movement, including one of its strongest advocates, Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood.
The use of abortion to achieve eugenic goals is not merely hypothetical. The foundations for legalizing abortion in America were laid during the early 20th-century birth-control movement. That movement developed alongside the American eugenics movement. And significantly, Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger recognized the eugenic potential of her cause. She emphasized and embraced the notion that birth control “opens the way to the eugenist.”
“He’s wrong,” seven historians told the Washington Post in response. One went so far as to accuse the justice of “a gross misuse of historical facts.”
Most of these history experts did not attack Thomas’s research or arguments, though. Instead, they deflected by attacking him and the pro-life movement.
As Salon reports, University of Michigan history professor Alexandra Minna Stern slammed pro-lifers, claiming they are the true proponents of eugenics.
“That’s the through-line that I see, in terms of state-mandated reproductive control,” Stern said.
Georgia State law professor Eric Segall attacked Thomas’s character, saying the justice is “just awful.”
“Linking the pro-choice movement to racism and the rest of his tasteless, odious dicta in today’s opinion is just more data. He’s a bad man,” Segall said.
A few others tried to offer actual arguments refuting Thomas’s opinion.
Law professor Michael Dorf of Cornell University argued that Thomas made a faulty “guilt by association” argument, according to Salon.
Thomas’s argument thus goes like this: Sanger favored birth control on grounds of eugenics; she also opposed abortion; but the eugenics-based arguments she used in favor of legal birth control apply “with even greater force to abortion”; therefore, abortion is a form of eugenics. This has all the logic of the syllogism in Love and Death that culminates in the conclusion that “all men are Socrates.”…
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Justice Thomas argues that because some people once favored a legal right to abortion for a bad reason, it should be banned today. To Clarence Thomas, all fetuses are Socrates.
Author Adam Cohen argued in The Atlantic that the history Thomas cited is not “particularly relevant” to abortion, despite the connection between eugenics and Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in America.
It is true, as Thomas said, that Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, supported eugenics and that she had some pretty offensive views. (Anyone who doubts that should read what Sanger had to say about “slum mothers” in her book The Pivot of Civilization.) … And Thomas is correct that the Supreme Court played a lamentable role in the eugenics era with its 1927 ruling in Buck v. Bell, the subject of my book. The Court upheld a Virginia law that authorized the state to sterilize people it considered unworthy of reproducing, and it allowed the state to sterilize Carrie Buck, the poor young woman at the center of the case.
None of this was about abortion, however. The most prominent American eugenicists did not support abortion.
But these same attitudes about the value of human lives absolutely do connect to the abortion issue. The eugenics position, taken to its extremes, often results in violent abuses against certain groups of human beings. People have been enslaved and killed because of the eugenic idea that they are not as valuable as other human beings.
Planned Parenthood performs more than 300,000 abortions each year, many on babies from low-income and minority families, and spends millions lobbying to keep abortion on demand legal and readily available.
These discriminatory practices run all the way back to its founder, Margaret Sanger. A well-known eugenicist, Sanger wrote and spoke frequently about how certain groups of human beings were less valuable than others.
Sanger thought that way. She called for the elimination of the “unfit,” including poor, immigrants and minorities.
Angela Franks, PhD, who has done extensive research on Sanger, said the Planned Parenthood founder believed strongly in eugenic principles. Throughout her life, Sanger advocated for birth control and sterilization in ways that devalued certain groups of human beings, Franks explained. Like many eugenicists of her time, Sanger basically reduced people to their genetic makeup, lumping people into “good genes” and “bad genes” groups, Franks continued. It’s something the abortion industry still does today, though in a less obvious way, when it fights laws that protect unborn babies with disabilities from abortion.
In one particularly dehumanizing piece, Sanger wrote in 1925: “… Their lives are hopeless repetitions. All that they have said has been said before; all that they have done has been done better before. Such human weeds clog up the path, drain up the energies and the resources of this little earth. We must clear the way for a better world; we must cultivate our garden.”
Other evidence indicates that Sanger was heavily involved in the eugenics movement throughout her lifetime, and continued to publicly espouse such ideas even after eugenics fell out of favor, largely because of the Holocaust.
In a 1957 interview, Sanger told journalist Mike Wallace: “I think the greatest sin in the world is bringing children into the world – that have disease from their parents, that have no chance in the world to be a human being practically. Delinquents, prisoners, all sorts of things just marked when they’re born. That to me is the greatest sin – that people can – can commit.”
Sanger described blacks as “human weeds,” “reckless breeders” and “spawning … human beings who never should have been born” in her book “Pivot of Civilization.”
Sanger also wrote about getting rid of people with diseases and disabilities through sterilization and segregation, describing these “morons” as “a dead weight of human waste.”
“The main objects of the Population Congress would be to apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is tainted, or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring[;] to give certain dysgenic groups in our population their choice of segregation or sterilization,” Sanger wrote.
In the past 100 years, Planned Parenthood has succeeded in these goals in a horrific, deadly way. Pro-lifers estimate the abortion group has eliminated almost 7 million unborn babies’ lives throughout its history. Abortion fits so well into the eugenic roots of Planned Parenthood. Babies in the womb are living, growing human beings, but because they are not born yet, society has deemed them unfit to live.
Today her legacy is Planned Parenthood – which aborts more than 330,000 unborn babies every year.