Justice Thomas’s prophetic denunciation of Planned Parenthood’s eugenic legacy

By Dave Andrusko

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

We’ve discussed many, many times how Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has made a career out being ahead of the conformist-thinking crowd. However, it’s only been in the last year or three  that his enormous influence has begun to be recognized.

As we wrote last year, for example, “But now, after 28 years suddenly more perceptive observers are beginning to grasp that Justice Thomas has moved the High Court in his direction even as he has created a stable of young conservatives who are found everywhere in the pro-life Trump Administration and in the federal courts.”

Here’s another, quite current example of Thomas’ extraordinary insight and foresight. 

There’s ensued tremendous controversy stemming from Planned Parenthood of Greater New York’s decision  to remove the name of Margaret Sanger, PPFA’s “iconic” founder, from its Manhattan health clinic because of her ‘harmful connections to the eugenics movement. Reluctantly,  at least some observers are recalling  Justice Thomas’ prescient comments in Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky.

Margaret Sanger

In that 2019 decision, the Supreme Court voted to uphold one part of a 2016 Indiana abortion law while laying over for another day the second part—the portion of the law that prohibited “abortions done solely for reasons of race, sex or disability—in other words, for eugenic reasons,” as William McGurn reminded us in a piece that ran yesterday in the Wall Street Journal

Justice Thomas took the occasion to write 7,000-word history of how “From the beginning, birth control and abortion were promoted as means of effectuating eugenics.” 

His reward for being waaay ahead of the curve?  MercatorNet aptly observed

Most journalists ignored it or ridiculed it.

Mark Joseph Stern at Slate said that Thomas had attacked women who have abortions as “callous and monstrous child-killers” – a slander which Stern made up out of thin air.

Charles P. Pierce, at Esquire, wrote that Thomas had gone “bananas.” Garrett Eps, in The Atlantic, said that Thomas was part of “the far-right wing of African American conservatism.”

Adam Liptak, at the New York Times, barely mentioned it.

The full decision in Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky [Thomas’s concurrence begins on page 13] can be read here.

What follows are just a few highlights from his 20 page concurrence.

*”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. As explained below, a growing body of evidence suggests that eugenic goals are already being realized through abortion.”

*“Eight decades after Sanger’s ‘Negro Project,’ abortion in the United States is also marked by a considerable racial disparity. 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. 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. 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.’”

*[This is crucial] “Enshrining a constitutional right to an abortion based solely on the race, sex, or disability of an unborn child, as Planned Parenthood advocates, would constitutionalize the views of the twentieth-century eugenics movement. In other contexts, the Court has been zealous in vindicating the rights of people even potentially subjected to race, sex, and disability discrimination. … 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 [the 1992 Supreme Court decision] to resolve a question it did not address. Where else could they turn? The Constitution itself is silent on abortion. 

“Although the Court declines to wade into these issues today, we cannot avoid them forever.” Life is full of ironies

Planned Parenthood of Greater New York could not possibly dislike anything more than the prospect of frankly acknowledging the truth of what McGurn wrote on Monday:Planned Parenthood disavows her ‘racist legacy’ but continues carrying it out.”