Abortion Is a ‘Disturbingly Effective Tool’ for Eugenics, Supreme Court Justice Warns

  • Michael Foust Crosswalk Headlines Contributor
  • Updated May 29, 2019
Abortion Is a ‘Disturbingly Effective Tool’ for Eugenics, Supreme Court Justice Warns

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas cited lessons from the history of the American eugenics movement Tuesday in warning that abortion can be a “tool” to eliminate entire segments of the population.  

“A growing body of evidence suggests that eugenic goals are already being realized through abortion,” Thomas wrote.

Thomas cited the widespread use of abortion of female babies in Asia, the worldwide use of abortion of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome, and the abortion ratio within the American black population compared to that of the white population.  

“With today’s prenatal screening tests and other technologies, abortion can easily be used to eliminate children with unwanted characteristics,” he wrote. “Indeed, the individualized nature of abortion gives it even more eugenic potential than birth control, which simply reduces the chance of conceiving any child.”

Thomas’ 20-page opinion accompanied the court’s refusal to hear a case involving an Indiana law banning sex-, race-, and disability-selective abortions. Thomas agreed with the court’s decision not to take up the case but only because the issue needed more time to percolate in lower courts. The high court often will take up an issue only after it is considered in multiple circuits. The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals had struck down the Indiana law.

Thomas – who was nominated by President George H.W. Bush – detailed the history of the American eugenics movement. 

Former Planned Parenthood president Alan Guttmacher, he said, “endorsed the use of abortion for eugenic reasons.” The U.S. Supreme Court, in the 1927 Buck v. Belldecision, supported the forced sterilization of certain people. Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger called blacks  “the great problem of the South” – the “group with ‘the greatest economic, health, and social problems.’” She wanted to promote birth control among the black population, Thomas noted. 

Thomas then pivoted to modern-day data.

“The reported nationwide abortion ratio – the number of abortions per 1,000 live births – among black women is nearly 3.5 times the ratio for white women,” he wrote. “And there are areas of New York City in which black children are more likely to be aborted than they are to be born alive – and are up to eight times more likely to be aborted than white children in the same area.”

He added: “Whatever the reasons for these disparities, they suggest that, insofar as abortion is viewed as a method of ‘family planning,’ black people do indeed ‘tak[e] the brunt of the ‘planning.’”

Sex-selective abortion is regularly used in India, where 300,000 to 700,000 female fetuses are “selectively aborted in India each year.” Today, “there are about 50 million more men than women in the country,” he wrote.

Another targeted population, he wrote, includes individuals with Down syndrome.

“In Iceland, the abortion rate for children diagnosed with Down syndrome in utero approaches 100%. … Other European countries have similarly high rates, and the rate in the United States is approximately two-thirds,” he wrote. 

Abortion has “proved to be” a “disturbingly effective tool for implementing the discriminatory preferences that undergird eugenics,” he asserted. 

“Given the potential for abortion to become a tool of eugenic manipulation, the Court will soon need to confront the constitutionality of laws like Indiana’s,” Thomas wrote.


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Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Pool