In response to Alabama’s recent, controversial, abortion legislation, model and former Blurred Lines music video star, Emily Ratajkowski, posed nude on Instagram, bemoaning how the bill would “perpetuate the industrial prison complex by preventing women of low economic opportunity the right to choose to not reproduce,” and further how: “the states trying to ban abortion are the states that have the highest proportions of black women living there.” Ratajkowski, a sex-positive feminist, was obviously blind to her implicit appeal to eugenics, but Breitbart journalist John Nolte jumped at the opportunity to push the recently-popular narrative that “Democrats are the real racists,” going so far as to claim that “Ratajkowski Believes Killing Black Babies Is a Public Service”, and accusing her of white-supremacy, even comparing her comment to “anything you would read at ‘The Daily Stormer’”. In fact, Ratajkowski’s sentiments are neither as “woke” as she’d like to think, or as fascist as Nolte would like to accuse her of but reflect a kind of pragmatism taboo to both the mainstream left and the mainstream right: an overlooked meeting point between humanitarian concerns and elitist/conservative-minded population control.
The relationship between legalized abortion and falling crime rates has, in fact, been well studied, with results pointing to the not-at-all surprising notion that requiring every pregnancy to go to term, no matter how unwanted or inauspicious, may not actually be great for society. Many scholars cite Roe V. Wade as the prime culprit in the staggering, American, crime-drop of the 1990’s, for example. The demographic angle on this truth is touchier but also founded in reality. Blacks are disproportionately likely to be affected by those conditions which lead to poverty and crime, and sure enough, the most recent data shows them representing 54% of those incarcerated in Alabama despite representing just 26% of the population, and this still after comprising a majority of the aborted pregnancies in the state (62% in 2017). Ratajkowski’s point is basically that we as a society are churning out large numbers of people who are predestined by sociocultural conditions and the prison industrial complex to live miserable lives, and that this is especially obvious in a state like Alabama. It’s hard to imagine that inviting the number of single, black, Alabaman mothers to skyrocket—as does the state’s new abortion bill—wont perpetuate increases in poverty, general unrest, and higher incarceration rates in Alabama’s awful prisons (the deadliest in the country). Certainly, this outcome seems more likely than “one of those black babies” emerging from one of the worst public school systems in the country to “cure cancer” as John Nolte chides us.
It would seem that promoting absolute control over reproduction to those members of society most affected by adversity would be something that both humanitarians of the left, and those concerned with conserving social order and demographics on the right should find common ground on—but such agreement is far from sight.
As exemplified by the Nolte article, the right is utterly delusional on this point: willing only to make moralistic arguments against abortion, and as a result unwilling to engage with any arguments for it no matter how pragmatic. Allergic to coupling their opposition to abortion with any reasonable plans to increase the social welfare of those most likely to seek it out, the pro-life GOP must rely on the myth that anyone can lead a good and productive life if only they pick themselves up by their bootstraps. As usual, their exaggerated focus on the individual and personal responsibility makes them blind to dynamics that can only be grasped on a larger scale. The pro-life movement is part the same principles-based conservative tradition that supports starting foreign wars in order to spread “freedom and democracy” worldwide. It riles up a certain, obnoxious, segment of the population but its big-picture, long-term, effects are disastrous and tend to have the very opposite effect of “conserving” anything. “Never mind all the refugees! Never mind all the unwanted children! Freedom and democracy are absolute ends in themselves, and abortion is murder!” In this sense, the pro-life victory in Alabama must be viewed in the same vein as so many other “accomplishments” of the Trump era: rather than moving conservatism toward something more nationalistic and pragmatic—as promised and as is necessary—Trump has come to embody the last desperate gasp of boomer Conservative talking points.
The left occasionally makes valid points about abortion but no longer connects them with any broader program for maintaining a healthy, cohesive society. Rather, the pro-choice movement is now packaged with disastrous policies like laissez-faire immigration, support for the reproduction-incentivizing welfare state, and, increasingly, a general devotion to demographic change and cultural dissolution. And yet, occasionally someone like Ratajkowski comes along and says something on the abortion issue that makes one grow nostalgic for the more sensible tone of the early 20th century progressive era.
There is, of course, a precedent for talking about the eugenics of birth control and the historical figure who best represents these ideas is none other than progressive era figurehead and Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger. Pro-lifers love to talk about how Sanger was pro-eugenics and therefore basically Hitler. Many of them would be surprised to learn that Sanger was in fact anti-abortion and simply a radical proponent of contraception. She was indeed pro-eugenics but wasn’t a mere social Darwinist. For Sanger, eugenics and a humanitarian concern for the poor went hand-in-hand. Not only would birth-control reduce the population of an underclass whose high fertility rates had a demonstrably negative impact on society, but also it could improve that class’s standard of living. Just as critics of immigration accurately point out that immigration has a negative impact on the citizens of a country who must compete with new arrivals for jobs, Sanger argued that promoting birth control to adversely affected communities would empower them to advance. That such a promotion of birth control would also have a eugenic effect was simply another, complementary benefit. Her biggest crime, it seems, was to question the idea that all lives are necessarily good and valuable things—a cardinal offense in a mass-democratic society.
The fact is, it’s easier to virtue signal against eugenics than to provide the underclass a decent life. Leave it to the irrational banter of the culture wars to prevent us from having a more productive conversation about reproductive rights.