Justice Reveals Planned Parenthood’s Eugenic History

May 28, 2019

Justice Clarence Thomas reveals Planned Parenthood's eugenic history in today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court which upheld one provision of an Indiana state law that requires that fetal remains be buried or cremated, while denying another provision to reinstate the law’s limits that prohibits race, sex, and disability selective abortions.

In Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky Inc., the High Court granted review and summarily reversed by a 7-2 vote (Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor dissenting) the Seventh Circuit’s invalidation of an Indiana law requiring the humane disposition of fetal remains after abortion. The Indiana law was signed by Vice President Mike Pence when he was governor of the state. The ruling on the fetal burial law was based on rational basis review without implicating the Court’s abortion precedents (Roe v. Wade, Casey v. Planned Parenthood, etc.). As Justice Thomas said in his concurring opinion, “I would have thought it could go without saying that nothing in the Constitution or any decision of this Court prevents a State from requiring abortion facilities to provide for the respectful treatment of human remains.”

However, the Court also ruled today to deny certiorari on Indiana’s sex/race/disability-selective abortion ban, leaving in place a lower-court ruling striking down that law. That provision prohibited all abortions, at any time during a pregnancy, solely sought based on the unborn child’s sex, or because it had been diagnosed with Down syndrome or another disability, or because of characteristics like race or national origin. In the opinion, the justices claimed to “express no view on the merits of… whether Indiana may prohibit the knowing provision of sex-, race-, and disability-selective abortions by abortion providers.  Only the 7th Circuit has thus far addressed this kind of law. We follow our ordinary practice of denying petitions insofar as they raise legal issues that have not been considered by additional Courts of Appeals.” 

Regarding the prohibition on race, sex, disability selective abortions, Justice Thomas used the occasion of his concurring opinion to reveal how abortion is a furthering of the eugenics goal of Planned Parenthood’s founder Margaret Sanger. The only reason he agreed to not review the provision is that this is the only appellate decision to have addressed the issues and he wants to have others address it before the Supreme Court weighs in.

Justice Thomas wrote, “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.’”

Justice Thomas also noted that Planned Parenthood has its roots in the eugenics movement when he wrote: “But Sanger's arguments about the eugenic value of birth control in securing ‘the elimination of the unfit,’ ... apply with even greater force to abortion, making it significantly more effective as a tool of eugenics. Whereas Sanger believed that birth control could prevent ‘unfit’ people from reproducing, abortion can prevent them from being born in the first place. Many eugenicists therefore supported legalizing abortion, and abortion advocates—including future Planned Parenthood President Alan Guttmacher— endorsed the use of abortion for eugenic reasons…Technological advances have only heightened the eugenic potential for abortion, as abortion can now be used to eliminate children with unwanted characteristics, such as a particular sex or disability. 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.”

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