The Corner


A Stillborn Argument

Signs at the Supreme Court during the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., January 18, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Every few weeks lately, it seems, somebody tries this argument again: the argument that the pro-life movement is somehow wrapped up in white supremacy, or that white supremacy is in the heart of the pro-life movement. And every time the argument fails.

This one is a string of not-so-well connected dots between racists, nationalists, and fears about population. It proceeds on the ahistorical idea that eugenicists were against birth control. This is not true. The author, Marissa Brostoff, alleges “The Catholic church, too, joined forces with eugenicists against birth control advocates,” in a passage with no supporting evidence, or even acknowledgement, that the Catholic Church was almost the only significant American institution that stood against eugenics when it was fashionable. The article has to concede, shamefacedly, that Margaret Sanger, of Planned Parenthood was herself a eugenicist.

This is portrayed as an unfortunate and insignificant alliance. But in fact, the eugenic and social Darwinist rationalizations have persistently clung to the movement for wider birth control and abortion access, and to policies of sterilization.

It was the celebrated progressive Supreme Court judge Oliver Wendell Holmes who endorsed the eugenic component of sterilization policies in Buck v Bell. “It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

Ron Weddington, a co-counsel in the Roe decision, advised Bill Clinton, “You can start immediately to eliminate the barely educated, unhealthy, and poor segment of our country. It’s what we all know is true, but we only whisper it.”

If, like Brostoff, we are to cast ourselves to Europe, it should be noted that countries like Iceland have championed their “elimination” of Down’s Syndrome, by which they mean the almost universal recommendation of abortion as a “cure” to those so afflicted.

In recent years it was Ruth Bader Ginsburg whose mind drifted in a eugenic direction, when confronted with the prospect of state-level abortion restrictions: “It makes no sense as a national policy to promote birth only among poor people,” she said.

I’m sure Brostoff’s won’t be last attempt to make this argument fly, but it is one of the lamest.

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