Infant’s flesh will be in season throughout the year, but more plentiful in March, and a little before and after; for we are told by a grave author, an eminent French physician, that fish being a prolific diet, there are more children born in Roman Catholic countries about nine months after Lent than at any other season; therefore, reckoning a year after Lent, the markets will be more glutted than usual, because the number of popish infants is at least three to one in this kingdom: and therefore it will have one other collateral advantage, by lessening the number of papists among us.
Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal (1729)
To sell abortion, arguments about feminism, a woman’s right to choose, equality, freedom, etc., are used for the masses, but the forces that were behind the drive to legalize abortion tended to be clear, at least when talking among themselves, that eugenics was the prime motivation. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 81, remembers those days clearly, and, no doubt to the dismay of many contemporary liberals, tends to be fairly honest about that motivation. Kevin Williamson at National Review Online examines how the eugenics motivation still is the driving force behind abortion:
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, having decided for some inexplicable reason to do a long interview with a fashion magazine (maybe it is her celebrated collection of lace collars), reaffirmed the most important things we know about her: her partisanship, her elevation of politics over law, and her desire to see as many poor children killed as is feasibly possible.
Speaking about such modest restrictions on abortion as have been enacted over the past several years, Justice Ginsburg lamented that “the impact of all these restrictions is on poor women.” Then she added: “It makes no sense as a national policy to promote birth only among poor people.”
This is not her first time weighing in on the question of what by any intellectually honest standard must be described as eugenics. In an earlier interview, she described the Roe v. Wade decision as being intended to control population growth, “particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.” She was correct in her assessment of Roe; the co-counsel in that case, Ron Weddington, would later advise President Bill Clinton: “You can start immediately to eliminate the barely educated, unhealthy, and poor segment of our country,” by making abortifacients cheap and universally available. “It’s what we all know is true, but we only whisper it.”
In 1980, the punk band the Dead Kennedys released a song called “Kill the Poor.” In it, singer Jello Biafra considers the many benefits to be had from the policy he is singing about: the elimination of “unsightly slums,” the lowering of welfare taxes, reduction of overcrowding, reduction in crime, etc. “The sun beams down on a brand new day,” he declares, “Jane Fonda on the screen today convinced the liberals it’s okay.” To be sure, Mr. Biafra wasn’t singing about abortion; his tongue-in-cheek proposal was for the relatively antiseptic measure of striking poor neighborhoods and housing projects with neutron bombs, eliminating the populations but preserving property values. A ghastly and satirical proposal, to be sure, but not really so different from the case that Justice Ginsburg and others of her ilk make for eliminating those “populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”
“We only whisper it.”
The economist Steven Levitt, for example, has argued that abortion helped to bring down crime rates; that probably isn’t true, but it has not stopped abortion enthusiasts from incorporating crime-reduction into their case for killing the poor. Abortion as a tool of population control remains very much in vogue, particularly with international organizations: “To avoid a world with deteriorating social, economic, and political stability, with the concomitant loss of personal and national security, we must ensure that safe abortion is made available,” writes the American population-control activist and academic Steven Mumford, who also advocates mass sterilizations.