Published August 19, 2009

Sometimes, the veil slips.

It certainly did in a recent New York Times Magazine interview with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. There, in the course of relating her surprise at the Court’s 1980 decision upholding the Hyde Amendment (which banned federal funding for abortion), Justice Ginsburg had the following to say about legal history, social policy, and political surprises: “Frankly, I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding of abortion.”

Turn that phrase over in your mind — “populations that we don’t want to have too many of.” Rather odd, wouldn’t you say — odd in itself, and odd in light of such 20th century horrors as the Holocaust and the Ukrainian terror famine, justified by their perpetrators on precisely such grounds? Then there is Justice Ginsburg’s rationale for Roe vs. Wade and its judicially created license to abortion-on-demand: Roe was intended to clear the legal path to federal funding of abortions for poor — read “black” — people, who clearly loom large among those “populations we don’t want to have too many of.”

Little surprise, then, that the National Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) had “no comment” when asked about Justice Ginsburg’s comments. One wonders what the first African-American president of the United States will say when Justice Ginsburg leaves the Court.

That the contemporary pro-abortion movement in America is the outgrowth of the early 20th century eugenics movement — which explicitly sought to limit “populations that we don’t want to have too many of” — is well known to everyone who has bothered to study the history in question. Margaret Sanger, foundress of Planned Parenthood, was a devout eugenicist. Indeed, eugenics was very much the progressive cause back in my grandparents’ day, and enjoyed considerable support among the upper classes. Then came Hitler and his quack racial philosophy and his genocidal “doctors” — and eugenics understandably got a very bad name. That the eugenic impulse lives on, however, no reasonable person can now doubt, Justice Ginsburg having lifted the veil.

That much, as I say, we should have known all along. What continues to baffle me is the acquiescence of America’s African-American leadership in the decimation of America’s black population by Roe vs. Wade — for even without that Medicaid funding of abortion to which Ruth Bader Ginsburg once looked forward with evident satisfaction, abortion has taken a tremendous toll in the African-American community since 1973 and is likely the primary reason why African-Americans now constitute our second-largest minority, after Hispanic-Americans. And the black political leadership has, with rare exceptions, supported the abortion license.

How does this make any human sense? How does it make any political sense — to support an abortion regime that drastically cuts down your own group’s numbers? Is there any other occasion in history when a political leadership has been complicit in the unnatural (indeed violent) demise of its own population? I don’t know of one.

Just as Senator Edward Kennedy could have been the leader of the pro-life movement among U.S. Catholics, so President Barack Obama (representing one of those population groups that some people “don’t want to have too many of”) could have been a pro-life leader among African-Americans (who in fact are more pro-life than their white fellow-countrymen). Obama, like Kennedy, chose another path. And while his declared intention to reduce the number of abortions is welcome, his administration’s policies seem certain to continue the assault on America’s African-American population — all in the name of “choice” and progress.

It is all too strange. And very, very sad. Justice Ginsburg deserves, I suppose, a measure of credit for saying publicly what NARAL and Planned Parenthood and the rest of that gang have long believed. But where is the outrage at this blatant defense of legally-sponsored and federally-funded eugenics? And especially among African-Americans? Where is the new Frederick Douglas when his people — and the rest of us — need him?

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.

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