Saturday, August 8, 2009

Abortion, eugenics and ideology

About a quarter-century ago, I noticed that the car of one of my then-church's sextons sported this bumper sticker: "American abortion -- Hitler would have loved it!"

Not long afterward while playing basketball in the church's Parish Hall, I told him, "Hitler wouldn't have given a damn" -- which I knew to be true. If you don't believe me, here's a quote from the man himself: "The idea that a woman's body belongs to her is absurd."

The issue came up for me during a discussion on "Obamacare" on another blog where one of the other posters accused "Democrats," especially those who support abortion rights -- I don't, by the way -- of supporting the extermination of certain racial groups due to innate "inferiority." When I first heard that years ago it sounded ridiculous -- and, upon examination, it turns out to be.

Rather, it represents yet another campaign from the political right to marginalize those who don't agree with all of its tenets, shifting the blame from its own policies to its opponents. More to the point, this is one situation about which it's just plain lying.

As I mentioned, elective abortion is often linked to the notorious German dictator who caused World War II, but the truth about what he believed, said and did doesn't square with the legend. Hitler had actually banned abortions by "Aryan" women while encouraging or forcing them on those of "darker" hue. One of the reasons Germany conquered other nations was so that "Aryans" could populate them, even going so far as to encourage them to marry women in, say, Scandinavia.

However, the people who hold analogous views today are are on the right, not the left. I got a glimpse of that in the 1980s when Pat Robertson, of course no liberal, said on the "700 Club" that evangelical Christians should increase their birthrate. It's also a concern of white racist groups such as neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and (I believe) the Council of Conservative Citizens.

One long-time anti-abortion target is, of course, Planned Parenthood, whose founder, the late Margaret Sanger, has been painted as a vicious racist and Nazi sympathizer who supported forced abortions.

Sanger, however, actually wrote during WWII: "All the news from Germany is sad [and] horrible and to me more dangerous than any other war going on [anywhere] because it has so many good people who applaud the atrocities [and] claim its right. The sudden antagonism in Germany against the Jews [and] the vitriolic hatred of them is spreading underground here [and] is far more dangerous than the aggressive policy of the Japanese in Manchuria.."

She also wrote, "The campaign for birth control is not merely of eugenic value but is practically identical with the final aims of eugenics.... We are convinced that racial regeneration, like individual regeneration, must come 'from within.' That is, it must be autonomous, self-directive and not imposed from without."

Doesn't sound like she believed in the concept of a "master race," let alone using political means to produce it.

And here's a shocker: In the 1920 book "Woman and the New Race," which came out at a time when abortion had already been illegal for a generation, Sanger wrote, "While there are cases where even the law recognizes an abortion as justifiable if recommended by a physician, I assert that the hundreds of thousands of abortions performed in America each year are a disgrace to civilization." (Keep in mind also that she died in 1966, a little over six years before Roe v. Wade.)

All this forces me to question the motives of people who accuse PP and similar organizations of placing abortion clinics in black neighborhoods for the purpose of racial "genocide." Here in Pittsburgh, PP's office is actually Downtown -- my bus to work goes within a block -- where few people actually live, most of those white. Also, three abortion clinics are located in East Liberty, an impoverished city neighborhood also largely black; however, two of them have been there since at least the early 1980s, when it was "in transition" (and probably long before that).

But as I was saying, the folks who have tended to promote "eugenics" as culture or policy have come from the right. It wasn't "liberals" who fought to preserve slavery. It wasn't "liberals" who implemented Jim Crow laws. It wasn't "liberals" who exploited migrant Asians on the West Coast in the 19th century. It wasn't "liberals" who strategically placed bombs to intimidate (or even kill) civil-rights figures or called Martin Luther King Jr. a Communist. It wasn't "liberals" who displayed signs saying "Hang [Nelson] Mandela" upon his release from a South African prison.

And if you need any more proof, consider that one of PP's largest benefactors is billionaire right-wing financier Richard Mellon Scaife, publisher of the Tribune-Review and best known for funding the "vast right-wing conspiracy" against President Bill Clinton in the 1990s.

This kind of mischaracterization may be a reason why the anti-abortion movement hasn't gone anywhere since 1973. If we believe we have "truth" on our side, we'd better get our facts straight.

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