Abortion and the eugenic attitude
Margaret Sanger, the early American abortion advocate, believed in the practice of eugenics. Like many misguided early twentieth-century social activists, she believed that
eugenics was – in her words – “the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political and social problems.” For Sanger, birth control did not simply constitute a marginal alteration of the ratios of reproduction; it meant that unfit races and classes were to be bred into oblivion so that the fit remaining members of the human family could thrive in their absence. As she remarked in 1921: “The campaign for birth control is … practically identical with the final aims of eugenics.”
Modern proponents of abortion would contend that the aims of this founding figure have nothing to do with their movement today. Planned Parenthood, the group Sanger founded, presents itself, not as an organ of social and racial realignment, but rather as a defender of “reproductive rights.” The numbers, however, tell a much different story.
In an article reprinted in the National Post, the New York Times reported startling statistics from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States: “Black women get almost 40 per cent of the country’s abortions, even though blacks make up only 13 per cent of the population. Nearly 40 per cent of black pregnancies end in induced abortion.” These incredible numbers confirm the findings of Planned Parenthood’s own think tank, the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which reported that the abortion rate for black American women is almost five times that for white women.
These numbers are simply staggering, and even abortion advocates admit being alarmed by them. Writing in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, columnist Cynthia Tucker conceded that these “numbers are certainly troubling.” But, although she finds these statistics unsettling, Tucker argues that it is “both sexist and racist to suggest that black women don’t have the intellectual and emotional firepower to make their own decisions.”
For the moment, let us leave aside the fact that much smaller statistical disparities in other realms of modern life are often cited as prima facie evidence of both racism and sexism. Indeed, one longs to hear Tucker’s interpretation of the difference in the incarceration rates between whites and blacks, as well as the gap in income between men and women. (Are these divergences, too, merely the result of “intellectual and emotional firepower,” of free people making “their own decisions”?) Instead, let us pursue the question which Tucker refuses to face directly: why does such a difference in the abortion rate exist?
That black children are aborted at a higher rate than white children does not indicate some conscious conspiracy among colluding abortion advocates – even though there is a preponderance of abortuaries in black neighborhoods. The truth is actually much more troubling, and the problem, much worse. The eugenic program which Sanger espoused is not concealed by the rhetoric of the pro-abortion movement; rather, it is identical with it. Indeed, in the slogan, “every child should be a wanted child,” it is not hard to deduce the implicit corollary: “every child should be a fit child.”
Sanger’s eugenic attitude is suffused throughout the pro-abortion movement itself, and has seeped into the modern mindset of social liberals. Thus, when Haiti was ravaged by an earthquake, when millions of Haitian women were languishing in dire conditions, lacking the basic necessities of life, to say nothing of proper medical treatment, the current leader of the Liberal Party, Michael Ignatieff, affirmed that these women should be entitled to “the full gamut of reproductive health services (including the) termination of pregnancy and contraception.”
That anyone seeing the extreme condition of a pregnant Haitian woman would think she needs, not compassion, comfort and basic medical care, but, instead, an abortionist to relieve the burden of her womb is unthinkable and outrageous. Yet Ignatieff, persistent in his perverse vision of maternal health, evidently thinks that bringing the abortion rate up is a goal equivalent to bringing the rate of maternal death down.
Ignatieff’s shocking statements are an example of Sanger’s mindset at work in international policy. According to the depraved logic of the eugenic attitude, if a pregnant mother finds herself in anything less than ideal conditions, she should be given the option to end the life of her child and lessen the burden it represents to both her and the world. This, then, is the paradoxical “health care” that the West offers to a disaster-ravaged region: depopulation as a form of charity. But, as Harley Price observed in these pages last month, “aborted children have no health and women who ‘terminate their pregnancies’ are thereupon no longer mothers.” If abortion constitutes “reproductive health,” then it follows that the condition it treats is fertility, and the disease it fights is the child.
Women who are encouraged to cultivate their “reproductive health” through the killing of their children are deemed not healthy enough to reproduce. This corrosive attitude is also evident in the arresting figures reported by the Times: when poor, black mothers face unplanned pregnancies, they are not offered help in raising their children, but rather help in getting rid of them. Instead of real assistance in bringing their children to term, they are offered only the coercive compassion of abortion-as-birth-control.
The anti-apartheid activist, Stephen Biko, once wrote that “the most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” The eugenic principles of the abortion movement are a toxic export, the barbarism of the so-called developed world foisted upon other nations. But it is not absent in the West itself. If black women – in North America and elsewhere – are subtly coerced into aborting their own children in the name of “reproductive health,” then the ideologues who teach them to see their own children as ailments in search of a cure have perpetrated the worst kind of intellectual abuse. Reproduction is not an obstacle to health, a hindrance, or a diminishment of a full life. That it is seen as such by women today is evidence of how pernicious and how pervasive the eugenic beliefs of Sanger have become.