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A horrible truth behind today’s big abortion case

Justice Thomas is right: Abortion is a form of eugenics and racism

Margaret Sanger testifies before a Senate committee in 1934. Associated Press photo (file)

A horrible truth behind today’s big abortion case

The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization today. It’s a landmark Supreme Court case, one that challenges and could potentially result in the overturning of Roe v. Wade, thus restoring the ability of states to regulate abortion as they see fit.

However, Dobbs is not only about protecting unborn babies in the womb or empowering states to make their own laws on abortion; it also presents an opportunity to challenge the unchecked racism of the abortion industry.

That industry’s history of racism should be well-known to the Supreme Court. Justice Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court’s only black justice, has repeatedly pointed out abortion’s deadly impact on black lives. In his concurring opinion in Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, Inc., Thomas stated the dark truth behind the abortion industry quite clearly: Margaret Sanger started Planned Parenthood to eliminate black lives.

Thomas was right. In a letter to Dr. Clarence Gamble, Sanger outright admitted that “we do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.” For Sanger, abortion was a tool, a means to an end; Planned Parenthood was created to stop black families from reproducing—even if that meant killing black lives in the womb.

But Planned Parenthood didn’t emerge in a vacuum; it was part of a broader culture of racism and eugenics in America. Around the turn of the 20th century, states across the country started passing laws encouraging those believed to possess “superior” genes to reproduce and those with ‘inferior” genes not to reproduce, sometimes by coercion. It was clearly racist, but several states developed targeted eugenics programs. These included such practices as forced sterilization of the disabled and of people of certain ethnicities. When the Supreme Court infamously ruled these programs were constitutional in Buck v. Bell, they began to proliferate—especially in the South.

Eugenics programs became so common that they acquired folk names. Mississippi, in particular, is infamous for the “Mississippi Appendectomy,” a form of routine, forced sterilization performed on black women without their consent, and often without their knowledge. Given America’s struggles with racism and segregation, it should come as no surprise that America’s eugenics programs disproportionately targeted and impacted black men and women.

The abortion industry continues that legacy today. Abortion is the leading cause of death for black Americans. And that is by design; nearly 80 percent of Planned Parenthood’s clinics are within walking distance of poor black and minority communities. Despite making up just 13 percent of the population, black women undergo around 40 percent of the nation’s abortions.

This is what makes the Dobbs case so important. Challenging Roe v. Wade, and the pro-abortion judicial regime it created, this case is our opportunity to reckon with the racism built into the abortion industry. By asking the Supreme Court to reconsider the judicial precedent set by Roe v. Wade, Mississippi’s Attorney General Lynn Fitch is giving us an opportunity to fix the wrong of eugenics and combat the systemic racism still prevalent in the abortion industry today.

We can’t afford to wait. The judicial regime established by Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey gives legal cover to the abortion industry’s systematic campaign to eliminate black lives. Millions of black babies have died from abortion. And unless Dobbs is successful in challenging the Roe/Casey regime, millions more will die in the years to come.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. That’s why nearly 80 amicus briefs have been filed in support of Mississippi in Dobbs v. Jackson. And that’s also why I was immensely proud to lend the voice of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, my own organization, to the dozens of other organizations submitting briefs in defense of a pro-life ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson.

So much of the contemporary conversation around abortion focuses on unhelpful euphemisms like “reproductive autonomy” or “reproductive rights.” We need to be more direct than that; we have to call the abortion industry for what it is: a racist institution that targets and harms black lives and black communities. Ending the ability of that industry to operate largely unchecked is one of the most important civil rights issues of today.

Dean Nelson

The Rev. Dean Nelson serves as the vice president of government relations for the Human Coalition, one of the largest pro-life organizations in the United States. He also serves as the chairman of the Douglass Leadership Institute, an education organization advocating for human dignity, strong families, and limited government. Rev. Nelson is a licensed minister from Salem Baptist Church in Marshall, Va., and an ordained bishop with Wellington Boone Ministries.

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