By Mason Mohon, Phyllis Schlafly Eagles Intern
Abortion is the most controversial issue in the United States today, with both sides having great conviction in their disagreements over some of the most fundamental questions of human life and science. Eugenics, on the other hand, is far less controversial. The prospect of sorting different kinds of people into groups and giving them preferential treatment as to whether or not they can continue their bloodline, or sometimes even live, is near universally seen as an inhumane and completely unethical philosophy. Even stating that there are “kinds of people” is dirty, pigeonholing individuals into groups that can be compared and ranked.
Eugenics has not always been so cut-and-dried as an ethical and political issue, however. In the early 20th century and the beginnings of the progressive movement, the growing sciences of genetics and natural selection led many to ask what bearing these discoveries had on the human world. Even more, it led some to ask if these new sciences could provide tools to make society better.
The world of eugenics began with Sir Francis Galton, a scientist who was gripped by Darwin’s descriptions of evolution and genetic change. With the inspiration of Darwinism, he put forward his own theory of genetic determinism in human beings and coined the term “eugenics” in 1883.
Many powerful Americans were interested in the prospect of genetically boosting all of mankind. The Carnegie Institution, Rockefeller Foundation, and Edward Henry Herriman of railroad industry wealth began to fund the eugenics industry. J.H. Kellogg, a wealthy American doctor and businessman, funded the establishment of the Race Betterment Foundation in 1906.
In 1911, the Eugenics Record Office was founded in New York thanks to funding from Edward Herriman and the Carnegie Institution. It was founded by biologist Charles Davenport, who worked with Madison Grant and Henry Goddard. The ERO collected data across the country in an attempt to find trends in the population, trying to determine who was superior and who was inferior. They floated various ideas for the improvement of society’s genetic stock, which included immigration restrictions, forced sterilization, segregation, and even extermination.
The early feminist movement was also involved in the American eugenics movement. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and National League of Women Voters encouraged eugenics reform.
This is the movement that Margaret Sanger came out of. Sanger is primarily known for the founding of Planned Parenthood. She was also a pioneer in the movement for contraceptives and abortion.
She was in favor of eugenics to prevent unwanted children from being born into poverty. She also favored eugenics to prevent the passing on of mental disabilities and physical defects, even advocating for sterilization. Although these beliefs are not based on race or intelligence, they still are based on the assumption that the poor, unwanted, mentally handicapped, or physically disabled are less worthy of life than the rest of us, and therefore less human.
Sanger is on record saying in a letter that “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”
Regardless of whether or not Sanger was actually attempting to limit the black population, the racial disparity in abortion today is extreme. Black babies are aborted at 4 times the rate of white babies. In addition, this racial disparity has been increasing over time. As Justice Clarence Thomas has pointed out, there are parts of New York City where black babies are aborted at eight times the rate of white babies. Black children in these parts are less likely to be born alive than they are to be aborted.
Margaret Sanger did not invent abortion and is not responsible for the creation of all abortion facilities in the United States. However, the creation of Planned Parenthood has been tremendously impactful and the organization is the leader in the abortion industry. The abortion industry is built on a legacy of eugenics and disproportionately targets the African American population. Even if the abortion supporters are not racist in their justifications and theories, they are racist in their practice.