If Women Are Even Half As Evil As Clarence Thomas Thinks We Are, We Shouldn't Be Having Babies In The First Place
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued a mixed decision on two abortion-related Indiana laws. The first was a law requiring that fetal remains from abortion be cremated or buried, and that was upheld by the court in a 7-2 decision. The second was a law banning the termination of a pregnancy on the basis of the fetus's race or sex, or because said fetus has a disability or disease of some kind. The court was unanimous in declining to even review a lower court overturning that portion of the law. Which is good, because that is ridiculous.
Still, Justice Clarence Thomas issued a 20-page concurring opinion noting that while he agreed with the decision not to review the law regarding prohibiting abortions for now, that "this law and other laws like it promote a State's compelling interest in preventing abortion from becoming a tool of modern-day eugenics."
For most of the 20 pages, Thomas rambled on and on about the history of eugenics and his belief that Margaret Sanger was an evil racist eugenicist who promoted birth control to black communities because she wanted them to stop having children altogether.
Sanger herself campaigned for birth control in black communities. In 1930, she opened a birth-control clinic in Harlem. Then, in 1939, Sanger initiated the "Negro Project," an effort to promote birth control in poor, Southern black communities. Noting that blacks were "'notoriously underprivileged and handicapped to a large measure by a "caste" system,'" she argued in a fundraising letter that "'birth control knowledge brought to this group, is the most direct, constructive aid that can be given them to improve their immediate situation.'"
In a report titled "Birth Control and the Negro," Sanger and her coauthors identified blacks as "'the great problem of the South'"—"the group with 'the greatest economic, health, and social problems'"—and developed a birth-control program geared toward this population. She later emphasized that black ministers should be involved in the program, noting, "'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.'"
This particular Sanger quote has often been used by morons throughout the years to "prove" that Sanger was a racist, and that therefore birth control itself is racist. Somehow it does not occur to them that perhaps she didn't want people to think that because it wasn't true. Sanger also did not think that black people themselves were a problem, she merely recognized that they were dealing with some pretty serious problems, as a result of slavery, racism and Jim Crow laws. Which they very obviously were.
Margaret Sanger was not specifically bringing birth control to black communities because she wanted to get black people to stop having children. That was not a thing, no matter how many times people say it. Sanger was working with NAACP founder W.E.B. Du Bois—who was, quite famously, a black person—to bring birth control to black communities. Why? Well, being able to control the circumstances under which you have children is really important in terms of controlling your own destiny, for one, but also because black women at the time—as now—had an extremely high maternal mortality rate.
Last year 40,000 Negro mothers and babies died in childbirth in this country.
They died, for the most part, as a result of inadequate medical attention, poor living conditions, improper diet and many other ills, which taken together made for mothers who were poor maternity risks from the start.
It is fair to suppose that most of the women who died were wives who loved their husbands--wives who were eager to live, to make homes and to raise their children. The answer to this love was 40,000 deaths. 40,000 deaths which might have been prevented had these births been planned instead of left to chance. — Margaret Sanger, 1946
Though Thomas notes Sanger's collaboration with Du Bois, he claims it doesn't matter, and that it doesn't even matter what her actual intentions were, because some people who thought birth control was a good idea were eugenicists.
Defenders of Sanger point out that W. E. B. DuBois and other black leaders supported the Negro Project and argue that her writings should not be read to imply a racial bias. But Sanger's motives are immaterial to the point relevant here: that "Birth Control" has long been understood to "ope[n] the way to the eugenist."
And yes, Sanger was into "eugenics," but not to the extent of being into weird Nazi shit. Her belief was that if people were able to only have babies when they wanted them and were able to care for them, that we would have a better society over all. Wow! What a crazy idea!
Even if she were into racist eugenics, even if she were a terrible, evil, racist person, that would not make birth control itself terrible, evil or racist. If we are going by that measure, pretty much anything that started in the late 19th-early 20th century would also have to be considered terrible, evil and racist. The entire study of criminology was founded on scientific racism. For real, that shit was started by a Northern Italian dude named Cesare Lombroso who believed that you could figure out who was a criminal based on the shape of their heads. And who had these "criminal headshapes"? Black people! And Southern Italians, whom he believed were more prone to criminality because they were just too close to Africa to not be part black, rather than because the unification of Italy in 1871 had left them broke AF. It just made sense! Logic!
I don't think we're going to throw out the entire field of criminology because that dude sucked. That would be weird, and also it would limit the amount of good television shows in existence.
BUT I DIGRESS.
These are things that anyone with an internet or library card ought to be able to figure out on their own. The real issue here is that Clarence Thomas clearly thinks that women are evil.
And if I thought women were as evil as Clarence Thomas clearly thinks we are, I would think that none of us should be allowed to have babies.
Because what he is suggesting in this 20-page response is that there is a real danger that women are going to go around having abortions for the purpose of doing evil eugenics. I say "women" here, despite the fact that trans men and non-binary folks can also have abortions, because this all has less to do with opposition to abortion than it does with a specific fear of the cruelty and selfishness of women and a belief in the redemptive power of motherhood.
Let us consider this for a moment. Let's say there are just piles of women out there, in this country, having abortions due to the fetus's sex or race. Why on earth would you want these people to be parents? I sure wouldn't! That is messed up! Personally, I cannot imagine that there are so many of these people out there as to necessitate a law, but I also do not have the low opinion of women that Clarence Thomas has.
The availability of abortion and yes, even birth control, deprives people of a certain mindset (like Thomas) of what they feel is an incredibly appealing and satisfying narrative. They want the opportunity to see a selfish, shallow, cruel, or vain woman transformed into a selfless angel through the corrective magic of forced motherhood. They are angry at the idea of that narrative being taken away from them. In fact, they see it as ultimately hurtful to the woman to not "allow" her to the opportunity to become a better person by sacrificing in this way.
In his concurrence, Thomas spends a lot of time specifically addressing the prevalence of abortion in the black community.
Eight decades after Sanger's "Negro Project," abortion in the United States is also marked by a considerable racial disparity. The reported nationwide abortion ratio— the number of abortions per 1,000 live births—among black women is nearly 3.5 times the ratio for white women.
What he's really getting at here is that he believes that black women are somehow less capable than white women when it comes to deciding for themselves whether or not they want to give birth. That is ... unbelievably insulting.
Allow me to also note that a particularly high percentage of the people who try to use this argument as a way to prove that the legality of abortion itself is somehow racist are the same people who like to complain about supposed "Welfare Queens" having babies just to scam the government for more money. In fact, Justice Thomas famously falsely accused his own damn sister of being such a person.
Clarence Thomas is not afraid of "modern-day eugenics." That is ridiculous. He might as well be afraid that phrenology is going to come back into vogue. This concurrence has nothing to do with abortion or eugenics and everything to do with Thomas's belief that women are either cruel or stupid and that this cruelty and stupidity ultimately hinders our ability to make a moral or informed choice about our own bodies and whether or not we should give birth.
So screw him.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse