Abortion and Justice

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On Tuesday, May 28, 2019, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas issued a statement about Indiana’s Sex Selective and Disability Abor­tion Ban. His views are contained in the Supreme Court’s opinion Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, Inc. I will offer a few thoughts on the Indiana Laws and Justice Thomas’s views. (I apologize in advance for the length of this post)

The Indiana Laws

The laws list the following as inadmissible reasons for choosing and performing abortions:

IC 16-34-4-5 Sex selective abortion prohibited
IC 16-34-4-6 Abortion prohibited if a person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion solely because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or has a potential diagnosis of Down syndrome
IC 16-34-4-7 Abortion prohibited if the person knows that the abortion is being sought solely because the fetus has been diagnosed with any other disability or has a potential diagnosis of any other disability
IC 16-34-4-8 Abortion prohibited if the person knows that the abortion is being sought solely because of the race, color, national origin, or ancestry of the fetus

To begin with, there can be no arguments that any of these reasons are “just reasons” for performing an abortion. The fact that the biological entity must be a human fetus is clearly contained in the factors determining the reasons for abortion. The sex of the fetus has been identified in the first case and the “race, color, national origin or ancestry” of the fetus is known in the fourth case. In the second case, a biological deformity of the fetus is “diagnosed” or “has a potential diagnosis” for Down’s syndrome [see IC 16-34-4 Chapter 4. Sex Selective and Disability Abortion Ban for definitions]. Similarly, in case three “the fetus has been diagnosed with any other disability or has a potential diagnosis of any other disability”.

Both the physician and the pregnant woman have reviewed the results of specific tests to acquire this information.

Based on this knowledge, these acts of abortion are murder. They are a termination of an innocent human life. This is premeditated murder. If similar reasoning is applied to the death of an adult or any child outside the womb, premeditated murder is the only reasonable conclusion based on the information available. The physician is guilty of murder and the pregnant woman is an accomplice in that murder. Any and all laws applicable to the persecution of both should be enforced.

Justice Thomas’s Views

In his ruling, Justice Thomas related the language above to this country’s eugenics program of the early 20th century. I support his position.

For those who know nothing about the eugenics program, read War Against the Weak by Edwin Black. It is a well-researched introduction into the program and the effect of that program on Germany and Europe under the Nazis. (Eugenics is a short-sighted solution to the range of physical, mental, and emotional differences in human beings. It is driven primarily by fear.)

Justice Thomas focuses on Margaret Sanger. Her contributions to the “cleansing” program are historical facts. Her preferred solution of contraceptives reflects a bias toward encouraging a “self-medication” approach to population control. Although Justice Thomas does not state this “self-medication” approach explicitly, a careful reading of his statement makes this clear. However, court decisions (Buck vs. Bell) and the use of legislation (Immigration Act of 1924) legitimized eugenic sterilization. Sterilization methods gained credibility among clinics throughout 28 of the 48 states in the nation at that time.

Justice Thomas notes that Alan Guttmacher, the future President of Planned Parenthood, “endorsed the use of abortion for eugenic reasons”.  In the ruling, Judge Thomas includes the following: In 1959, for example, Guttmacher explicitly endorsed eugenic reasons for abor­tion. A. Guttmacher, Babies by Choice or by Chance 186–188 (1959). He explained that “the quality of the parents must be taken into account,” including “[f]eeble­mindedness,” and believed that “it should be permissible to abort any pregnancy . . . in which there is a strong probability of an abnormal or malformed infant.” Id., at 198. He added that the question whether to allow abor­tion must be “separated from emotional, moral and reli­gious concepts” and “must have as its focus normal, healthy infants born into homes peopled with parents who have healthy bodies and minds.” Id., at 221.

The most compelling evidence for the application of abortions to eugenics is contained on pages 16 to 18 of the ruling. Strong evidence is provided for the use of abortion to eliminate babies with unwanted physical features (Down’s syndrome, the wrong gender) or babies of the wrong race. Justice Thomas is not editorializing personal opinions; he is setting the table for deep dialogue on the value of life.

Justice for All

The word justice is used by so many groups that it has become meaningless. There is social justice for anyone who qualifies as oppressed. There is political justice for anyone who claims their social justice demands are not being satisfied. And of course, there is economic justice for everyone who is not included in the middle class (whatever middle class means to the socially and economically oppressed.)

But can we settle on an objective definition of justice? A definition that clearly indicates that murder is unjust in all cases in which an innocent human life is terminated against the will of that human being? A definition that isn’t modified for the convenience of individuals or groups which may not benefit from that objective definition. This is the grand problem facing humanity today.

Until an objective definition of justice is established, all judicial decisions are meaningless. The law will be tweaked for the next “exception to the rule” and “justice will never be served”.

I encourage everyone to reflect deeply on this problem. If you’ve never thought about it before, read Plato’s Republic. I read it when I was young and idealistic; when family and friends accused me of taking life too seriously. I still take life seriously, but with a greater sense of reality that society is very far from idealistic (and has little interest in idealism).

Can we settle on an objective definition of justice? The myriad of “exceptions to the rule” will be dramatically reduced if justice is linked to an objectively defined common good (perhaps the biggest challenge in today’s self-indulgent society).

As always, in the words of Edward R. Murrow, “Good night and good luck”.

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