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U.S. abortion laws: Modern day eugenics

By Ava Zardynezhad, August 5 2022

On June 24, American people lost much of their freedom and body autonomy when five justices of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) voted to overturn Roe vs. Wade. There are many layers to this ruling. First, the situation is framed as a debate between “pro-life” and “pro-choice” ideologies. This is often times the most basic terms in which abortions laws are discussed. However, the overturn of this decision hints at much more serious, fundamental issues.

This ruling is a complete dismissal of religious freedom in the U.S. as it only holds Christian ideologies valuable in the discussion of life and abortion. Another layer of this ruling is a matter of privacy. This overturn is an outright disregard for the protection of the right to privacy under the Fourteenth Amendment. In addition, state-enforced abortion laws suggest personal privacy of Americans will be infringed upon at some point or another. It is expected that personal privacy of Americans will be invaded whether it’s in terms of their physical and virtual activities or day-to-day life. Most notably this ruling paves the way for infringement on other rights and freedoms, markedly, the legalization of same-sex unions. Some argue this ruling is concerning because it speaks to the level of illegitimacy among politicians and lawmakers. However, one layer that has concerned many over the past few weeks is deeply racist implications of this ruling.

In 1987, Former Advisor to President Lyndon B. Johnson, Ben J. Wattenberg, published The Birth Dearth. In this book, he discusses America’s falling birth rates and the perils of low fertility for the country’s economy and for the sake of capitalism. Wattenberg discusses many causes and remedies to this problem, including a discussion of contraception, same-sex partnership, social support programs for parents and more. One topic that he brings up in this discussion is immigration, regarding which he says, “at roughly current rates of fertility and immigration […], the white European share of the US population will be down from 80 per cent to 60 percent.” He goes on to disagree that America is an “essentially racist or bigoted country,” yet does not shy away from repeating time and over again that an influx of immigrants would cause much ethnic and cultural turbulence within society.

It’s no secret that the US is made up of a White majority and that those in power will do anything and everything to keep it that way. Newer studies have also predicted greater hostility in the US with increased diversity.

Now, another option is adoption, specifically as an alternative to abortions. He claims that as of 1987, “there [were] 1.6 million abortions in the US each year (versus 3.6 million live births).” He believes that only a 5 per cent switch to adoptions would be necessary to reverse the effects of the birth dearth. Similarly, a 1999 study by Levine et al. shows that nation-wide abortion bans would result in a at least 440,000 more births.

Now, I’m not going to be so bold as to suggest a direct correlation between Wattenberg’s manifesto, America’s insistence on a White majority and the recent changes in abortion laws — but I’m also not going to not suggest that there’s at least some connection. If anything, representative Mary Miller thanking former president Donald Trump for “the historic victory for White life in the Supreme Court,” speaks volumes about what the intentions behind this ruling might have been. Suddenly, the illegitimacy of the SCOTUS justices makes a lot more sense.

The overturn of Roe vs. Wade has potential for becoming a step towards a modernized and discrete form of the eugenics movement. This movement started in the early 20th century with the goal of “racial improvement” and “planned breeding” and has manifested itself in many forms, including but not limited to racial segregation, forced sterilization and social exclusion. This ruling paves the way for the White majority government to have control over the reproduction of various race groups, as well as the ability for states to enact a form of social exclusion through imprisonment.

Statistically, maternal mortality among Black Americans has been consistently and disproportionately high. In 2020, the maternal mortality rate among Black women was 55.3 per cent, whereas the total mortality rate was 23.8 per cent. It is worthy to note that Black Americans have the highest rate and ratio of abortions across the nation, therefore they will predictably experience more of an impact from the recent ruling.

Additionally, a Black person is five times more likely to be stopped without just cause than a White person. In the U.S., Black people make up a disproportionately higher percentage of incarcerations. Black Americans serve longer time for the same crime than White Americans and are more likely to fall victim to acts of police brutality and violence. Therefore, it’s safe to assume the same trends can and will apply once abortion laws are enforced. If Black people and people of colour are incarcerated for receiving an abortion — even if that’s not really the case — while they are in their child-bearing years, it’s very likely that they will not leave prison until long after they are no longer able to reproduce. On the other hand, if they go through with their pregnancies, they have a higher chance of dying due to complications at birth or otherwise.

Many fear that the overturn of Roe vs. Wade will start a new era of segregation. Though this might seem like a distant thought, just look at the voucher system that was recently approved for Arizona’s private schools or what Senator John Cornyn tweeted in response to former president Barack Obama’s take on Roe vs. Wade.  

This ruling shows that the U.S. is moving towards an alarming destination. As long as people are distracted by explaining for the millionth time why abortions should be a matter of choice and not life, the larger concerns and implications of these major decisions will go unnoticed and unaddressed. Somehow, that feels like the most terrifying part of it all.

This article is part of our Opinions section.

This article has been updated on May 19, 2023.

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