Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas concurred with the court to decline hearing the case contesting Indiana’s abortion law. But that wasn’t all. In his 20-page argument, Thomas called out the eugenicist foundations and motivations behind the pro-choice 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.” Sanger, Birth Control and Racial Betterment, Birth Control Rev., Feb. 1919, p. 12 (Racial Betterment). As a means of reducing the “ever increasing, unceasingly spawning class of human beings who never should have been born at all,” Sanger argued that “Birth Control . . . is really the greatest and most truly eugenic method” of “human generation.” M. Sanger, Pivot of Civilization 187, 189 (1922) (Pivot of Civilization).
This case highlights the fact that abortion is an act rife with the potential for eugenic manipulation. From the beginning, birth control and abortion were promoted as means of effectuating eugenics. Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger was particularly open about the fact that birth control could be used for eugenic purposes.These arguments about the eugenic potential for birth control apply with even greater force to abortion, which can be used to target specific children with unwanted characteristics. Even after World War II, future Planned Parenthood President Alan Guttmacher and other abortion advocates endorsed abortion for eugenic reasons and promoted it as a means of controlling the population and improving its quality.
In a report titled “Birth Control and the Negro,” Sanger and her coauthors identified blacks as“‘the great problem of the South’”—“the group with ‘the greatest economic, health, and social problems’”—and developed a birth-control program geared toward this population. Ibid. She later emphasized that black ministers should be involved in the program, noting, “‘We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.’”
Although Sanger was undoubtedly correct in recognizing a moral difference between birth control and abortion, the eugenic arguments that she made in support of birth control apply with even greater force to abortion. Others were well aware that abortion could be used as a “metho[d]of eugenics,” 6 H. Ellis, Studies in the Psychology of Sex617 (1910), and they were enthusiastic about that possibility. Indeed, some eugenicists believed that abortion should be legal for the very purpose of promoting eugenics.See Harris, Abortion in Soviet Russia: Has the Time ComeTo Legalize It Elsewhere? 25 Eugenics Rev. 22 (1933)(“[W]e are being increasingly compelled to consider legalized abortion as well as birth control and sterilization as possible means of influencing the fitness and happiness and quality of the race”); Aims and Objects of the Eugenics Society, 26 Eugenics Rev. 135 (1934) (“The Society advocates the provision of legalized facilities for voluntarily terminating pregnancy in cases of persons for whom sterilization is regarded as appropriate”).
It was against this background that Indiana’s Legislature, on the 100th anniversary of its 1907 sterilization law, adopted a concurrent resolution formally “ex-press[ing] its regret over Indiana’s role in the eugenics movement in this country and the injustices done under eugenic laws.”
Although the Court declines to wade into these issues today, we cannot avoid them forever. Having created the constitutional right to an abortion, this Court is dutybound to address its scope. In that regard, it is easy to understand why the District Court and the Seventh Circuit looked to Casey to resolve a question it did not address. Where else could they turn? The Constitution itself is silent on abortion.