The Supreme Court refused to rule Tuesday on the most contentious part of a highly restrictive abortion law in Indiana. But that didn’t stop Justice Clarence Thomas from going on an anti-abortion rant that critics said was embellishment and delivered under false pretenses. The only Black member of the nation’s highest court proceeded to equate birth control measures with elements of racism, or eugenics, in what many social media users characterized as a “misguided” bastardization of the truth.
The “provision of an Indiana law which said the state may prohibit abortions motivated solely by race, sex or disability should remain blocked,” CNN reported about the ruling. “The court, however, did say it would allow part of the law that requires clinics to bury or cremate fetal remains to take effect.”
But Thomas, in a 20-page statement, seemed to hint that the Supreme Court had unfinished business with the case.
“The Court’s decision to allow further percolation should not be interpreted as agreement,” Thomas wrote in part before continuing. “Enshrining a constitutional right to an abortion based solely on the race, sex, or disability of an unborn child, as Planned Parenthood advocates, would constitutionalize the views of the 20th-century eugenics movement.”
The Nature journal described “eugenics” in part as a movement that promoted “selective breeding for positive traits. In contrast, the eugenics movement in the US quickly focused on eliminating negative traits. Not surprisingly, ‘undesirable’ traits were concentrated in poor, uneducated, and minority populations. In an attempt to prevent these groups from propagating, eugenicists helped drive legislation for their forced sterilization (Norrgard 2008). The first state to enact a sterilization law was Indiana in 1907.”
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg slammed Thomas’ dissenting opinion as well as his choice of language in writing it, according to Mediaite.
“(A) woman who exercises her constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy is not a ‘mother,’” Ginsburg said before adding that “the cost of, and trauma potentially induced by, a post-procedure requirement may well constitute an undue burden.”
Indiana’s abortion law “requires doctors to inform women that “Indiana does not allow a fetus to be aborted solely because of the fetus’s race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, or diagnosis or potential diagnosis of the fetus having Down syndrome or any other disability,’” the Washington Post reminded readers Tuesday.
“Abortion rights groups have argued that the procedures do not center around eugenics, but are rather guarded under a woman’s right to choose as to whether to carry out her pregnancy,” the Hill wrote Tuesday after Thomas delivered his statement. “They say that mothers whose fetuses would not survive in the womb or after birth, or whose pregnancy would risk their own health, should have the right to terminate a pregnancy.”
Thomas and the Supreme Court weighed in on the matter as a series of restrictive abortion laws have been going into effect across Republican-led states. The most recent was in Alabama, where doctors can be sentenced to up to 99 years in prison for performing an abortion.
The wave of anti-abortion laws and proposed legislation has also been widely seen as a swipe against Black women.
“Black women know that whenever you criminalize abortion, then it’s Black women who are going to be locked up,” Georgia state Rep. Renitta Shannon told Rolling Stone for an article published May 3. “Whenever you don’t cover abortions through insurance, it’s young Black women who are going to suffer — we’re the majority of the minimum-wage earners. All this stuff is connected.”