Opinion

Think racists don’t like abortion? Think again.

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Part of my job involves answering arguments about abortion. That’s not always easy; there are days when refuting someone’s point can involve some serious effort. This isn’t one of those days.

Jonah Goldberg has written extensively on racism and eugenics in the progressive movement. Apparently Mother Jones columnist Kevin Drum has read enough: last month, he complained that “this sure is an odd thing to keep obsessing about.” While acknowledging how progressives once “believed in eugenics,” Drum says that changed “nearly a century ago,” so it’s no longer relevant:

And no matter what you think of modern liberal views toward abortion or right-to-die laws, nobody can credibly argue that they’re rooted in anything but the opposite of eugenics. Early 20th century progressives supported eugenics out of a belief that it would improve society. Contemporary liberals support abortion rights and right-to-die laws out of a belief in individual rights that flowered in the 60s.

Now, I’m not saying Mr. Drum isn’t a well informed individual, but there are definitely some gaps in his knowledge base. Because contrary to what he thinks, eugenics and racism were used to justify abortion in the past.

They still are today.

Eugenicists said they could improve society by eliminating “undesirable elements” which they typically labeled minorities and the disabled. Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger agreed with that approach. According to her, “drastic immigration laws” were a way to promote “race betterment.”

However, Sanger complained that “while we close our gates,” there was “no attempt to discourage or cut down the rapid multiplication of the unfit and undesirable at home.” Her desire to weed out “the unfit” led Sanger to work with hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan (she attended a Klan event 1926).

Despite what Drum contents, those attitudes didn’t disappear “nearly a century ago.” In 2009, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she had been surprised when, thirty years earlier, the Court had upheld a ban on Medicaid funding for abortions. Why? According to her,  abortion could help reduce “populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”

President Nixon, under whom federal funding for Planned Parenthood began, was more blunt. He favored aborting mixed race children and cited abortion as a means “to control the negro bastards.” That remains a popular sentiment on white supremacist websites like Erasing Us. There, abortion is referred to as “pro-active crime control” and people leave comments like this:

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And America’s largest abortion chain isn’t above taking money from them. In 2008, Planned Parenthood officials in multiple states were willing to accept donations from callers who said they were angry about affirmative action and wanted to see black children aborted.

Granted, aborting black children is something that Planned Parenthood does a lot of. The group Protecting Black Life has compiled a map combining data from the 2010 U.S. census with the location of Planned Parenthood facilities, and it shows that a disproportionate number of clinics are located in or near minority areas. Further, when Arizona made performing sex- and race-selective abortions a felony in 2011, Planned Parenthood wasn’t impressed.

Those with disabilities are targeted as well. The Zika virus is linked to microcephaly, and Brazil’s recent epidemic has lead to calls for loosening of the country’s abortion laws. Journalist Ana Carolina Carcares (who was born with microcephaly), has pointed out how “those who have abortions are not giving their children a chance to succeed.”

In America, some states that ban abortion post-viability make exceptions in cases of “fetal abnormality.” This is despite evidence a baby can feel pain at twenty weeks and that aborting one involves dismembering her or him one piece at a time.

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So as you can see, abortion remains a tool for racists and eugenicists. If you’d like to do something about that, then support legislation outlawing abortion for reasons of race, sex, or disability. Because while eugenics isn’t a thing of the past, that’s a fact you can help change.

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