WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court today, in Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, allowed to stand a decision by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals striking Indiana’s “Sex Selective and Disability Abortion Ban.” The bill, which originally passed the Indiana legislature in March 2016, prohibited abortion based on the unborn child’s race, sex, diagnosis of Down syndrome or other disability.
In denying Indiana’s petition, the Court noted it was not speaking to the merits of the case, but was following its “ordinary practice” of denying petitions in cases that have not been considered by multiple Courts of Appeals.
While he concurred with the Court’s decision to deny certiorari on the question of Indiana’s “Sex Selective and Disability Abortion Ban,” Justice Clarence Thomas used a 20-page concurrence to note that laws like Indiana’s “promote a State’s compelling interest in preventing abortion from becoming a tool of modern-day eugenics.”
As 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.”
He also noted that Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, has its roots in the eugenics movement:
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.
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.
“We applaud our affiliate, Indiana Right to Life, for advancing legislation like the Sex Selective and Disability Abortion Ban, which shines a light on the humanity of the unborn child,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life. “We also applaud Justice Clarence Thomas for using this opportunity to expose Planned Parenthood’s eugenic legacy and for highlighting the need to protect unborn children from being exterminated based on their race, sex, or level of disability.”
The full text of Justice Thomas’ opinion can be found starting on page 13 here: