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‘Modern-day eugenics’? US Supreme Court ruling upholds Indiana abortion restriction

‘Modern-day eugenics’? US Supreme Court ruling upholds Indiana abortion restriction
The Supreme Court has allowed part of an Indiana law restricting abortions to go into effect, reversing lower court rulings and sending a signal to pro-life activists that their constant hammering at Roe v. Wade may bear fruit.

The Court nibbled a little more off Roe v. Wade with its ruling, upholding part of a 2016 Indiana law (passed by then-governor Mike Pence, who praised the decision) that mandates the burial or cremation of fetal remains, defying two lower courts which had blocked the measure. A frustrated Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the whole law should have been thrown out, pointing out that if Planned Parenthood had used the “undue burden” standard, using the argument that adding burial costs would likely jack up abortion fees by several hundred dollars, they could have won the day.

The Court chose not to review another part of the law that banned any abortion based on sex, race, or other characteristic, including diseases not immediately fatal, triggering Justice Clarence Thomas to defend the provision as the only thing “preventing abortion from becoming a tool of modern-day eugenics.”

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In a 20-page diatribe that called on the court to uphold the measure in a future judgment, he connected Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger's support for the eugenic movement with the organization’s current work. Thomas also equated former Planned Parenthood president Alan Guttmacher's support for abortion in cases of an “abnormal or malformed infant” to support for eugenics-by-abortion, suggesting that “family planning” became a euphemism for eugenics when the latter fell out of style.

There are some areas of New York City in which black children are more likely to be aborted than they are to be born alive,” Thomas wrote, ignoring less inflammatory statistics explaining that most women who seek abortions already have at least one child. Nor did he mention economic considerations once in his entire argument, even though racial income disparities provide a plausible, evidence-based explanation for this unfortunate statistic.

The Center for Reproductive Rights found in 2017 that states that heavily restricted abortion also had the fewest supportive health policies for women and children, while a Georgetown University study found those same states had chosen not to expand Medicare under the Affordable Care Act, which Thomas opposed. With the highest rates of uninsured young mothers in the country, those same states have the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality. A popular criticism of pro-life advocates is that their concern for the fetus ends when it is born; faced with numbers like these, the point is difficult to argue.

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More than 12 states have introduced “heartbeat” bills that would ban second-term abortions, and Missouri's last abortion clinic is about to close its doors as the state health department refuses to renew its license. Earlier this month, Alabama passed the strictest abortion law in the country, threatening abortion providers with up to 99 years in prison. Thomas' warning that the Supreme Court “will soon need to confront the constitutionality of laws like Indiana's” plays right into the hands of the pro-life advocates behind the push for draconian state-level laws to criminalize abortion. Their hope is to force a sympathetic Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, one state bill at a time.

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