Supreme Court Justice Thomas raises concerns over abortion's 'potential for eugenic manipulation'

A general view of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, U.S., November 15, 2016.
A general view of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, U.S., November 15, 2016. | REUTERS/Carlos Barria

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas expressed concern about abortion having the “potential for eugenic manipulation” in a concurring opinion.

In an unsigned opinion, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in the case of Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky Inc., upholding a lower court's decision that concluded that an Indiana law banning abortions on the basis of race, sex, and disability was unconstitutional.

Thomas agreed with the unanimous decision to not take up the appeal, and said he believed that “the court will soon need to confront the constitutionality of laws like Indiana’s” because of “the potential for abortion to become a tool of eugenic manipulation.”

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“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,” wrote Thomas.

“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.”

Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger seen in this undated photo.
Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger seen in this undated photo. | (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Thomas went on to also cite former Planned Parenthood President Alan Guttmacher, who after World War II “endorsed abortion for eugenic reasons and promoted it as a means of controlling the population and improving its quality.”

“In 1959, for example, Guttmacher explicitly endorsed eugenic reasons for abortion. A. Guttmacher, Babies by Choice or by Chance 186–188 (1959). He explained that ‘the quality of the parents must be taken into account,’ including ‘[f]eeblemindedness,’ and believed that ‘it should be permissible to abort any pregnancy . . . in which there is a strong probability of an abnormal or malformed infant,’” continued Thomas.

Thomas warned that “with today’s prenatal screening tests and other technologies, abortion can easily be used to eliminate children with unwanted characteristics.”

“In Iceland, the abortion rate for children diagnosed with Down syndrome in utero approaches 100%,” he wrote. “Other European countries have similarly high rates, and the rate in the United States is approximately two-thirds.”

“In Asia, widespread sex-selective abortions have led to as many as 160 million ‘missing’ women—more than the entire female population of the United States.”

In 2016, then Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill into law that banned abortions on the basis of race, ancestry, gender, or disability.

"I believe that a society can be judged by how it deals with its most vulnerable — the aged, the infirm, the disabled and the unborn," said Pence in a statement at the time.

“By enacting this legislation, we take an important step in protecting the unborn, while still providing an exception for the life of the mother.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit struck down the ban and also a measure requiring the proper burial of fetal remains.

While the Supreme Court allowed the ruling against the ban to remain, it reversed the ruling against the fetal burial law, explaining in the unanimous decision that the high court had already upheld a similar law.

“This court has already acknowledged that a state has a ‘legitimate interest in proper disposal of fetal remains,’” read the unsigned opinion, referencing Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, Inc.

“The Seventh Circuit clearly erred in failing to recognize that interest as a permissible basis for Indiana’s disposition law.”

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