Abortion, Eugenics and the Meaning of Margaret Sanger

There is a disquieting reason Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s defenders have been denying, however implausibly, the clear meaning of the Supreme Court justice’s recent remarks about the history of abortion law, and that reason is this: Historically, eugenics has always been a significant component of the intellectual underpinnings – and political impetus – of the movement to legalize abortion. This legacy is glossed over by the rhetoric of today’s “pro-choice” tacticians, who couch their arguments almost exclusively as a question of a woman’s inalienable right to control her body and to make her own reproductive decisions. This reasoning carried the day, at least with the U.S. Supreme Court, which rendered it a constitutional right. But, from the early days of the national discourse on this topic, the idea of feminist empowerment was coupled with the less noble rationale of eugenics, that disturbing dogma that seeks to improve the human race through selective mating – and by controlling who has the opportunity to be born.