Republican lawmakers, activists, and Supreme Court Justices love to shout that anyone who supports abortion access is sanctioning eugenics, but that complaint—like so many things they say—is pure projection. We need only look at the events of the last few days, which include a horrific white supremacist mass shooting, to understand exactly what’s going on here.
There’s currently a nationwide baby formula shortage, and Republicans are mad that Border Patrol is following legal requirements to feed the migrant children that it locks up. Going by statements from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Troy Nehls (R-TX), it seems they’d prefer that the Biden administration let brown children starve to death.
Abbott said: “Our children deserve a president who puts their needs and survival first—not one who gives critical supplies to illegal immigrants before the very people he took an oath to serve.”
Then on Saturday, a white supremacist targeted a grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood of Buffalo, New York, and murdered at least 10 people, wounding several more. The shooter allegedly published a 180-page document that repeatedly cited the racist “great replacement” theory, the false notion that normal demographic change is actually due to a grand conspiracy to replace white people with nonwhite people.
Republicans like Stefanik and Fox News host Tucker Carlson love this lie, and so do a lot of anti-abortion activists (white supremacists routinely join “pro-life” protests). In fact, the 19th-century push to restrict abortion in the U.S. came around during the Civil War when white people were terrified of falling birth rates among white people amid increases in immigration from non-European countries.
The tragic shooting and infuriating baby formula shortage are happening in the wake of the leaked Supreme Court opinion suggesting that the justices are ready to fully overturn Roe v. Wade and let states ban abortion early in pregnancy. And for all the bleating from conservatives that abortion is somehow eugenics—as if anyone’s individual choice whether to continue or end a pregnancy could possibly be eugenics—their years-long goal of overturning Roe will kill, maim, and lock up Black and brown women of reproductive age much more than white women. It is Republican politics that will have a eugenic effect.
Several hundred women and pregnant people die in the US every year from pregnancy and childbirth and more than 50,000 come close to dying. Due to systemic racism, Black women are two to three times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy. When dozens of states ban abortion, more women and pregnant people will die—and the racial health disparities will worsen.
Some people post-Roe will die from unsafe abortions but the availability of safe and effective abortion pills should limit the health risks of illegal abortions. Though legal risks will remain. Gwen Snyder recently wrote an insightful Jezebel piece on the connections between abortion and white supremacy, and noted that criminalization of abortion will also limit the ability of women of color to reproduce:
Had authorities successfully prosecuted Herrera, her case would have advanced both the anti-abortion movement and the white natalist movement: Such imprisonment would potentially discourage women of all races from seeking medication-assisted abortion to circumvent the Heartbeat Act, but it would also have put a brown woman behind bars, potentially for the rest of the reproductive period of her life. A successful murder prosecution wouldn’t have restored Herrera’s lost fetus, but it would most certainly have prevented her from bringing children to term at any time in the near future.
Just today, Jezebel writer Kylie Cheung outlined why it’s no longer surprising to learn that many Republicans who are “pro-life” are also pro-death penalty. While Black people make up between 12 to 14 percent of the U.S. population, about 40 percent of people on death row are Black.
Restrict healthcare, prevent paid family leave, ban abortion, over-police Black and brown people, lock them up and throw away the key—or worse. Don’t ever let a conservative tell you that abortion is eugenics ever again.