Anyone who has actually read the Supreme Court’s opinion in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby knows that the decision is quite narrow. The Court granted certiorari to determine whether HHS regulations requiring that corporations offer certain forms of birth control violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. Owners of several closely-held corporations objected to offering several birth control measures which can, in some instances, cause abortion or are themselves akin to abortion. The Court held that the HHS regulations violation the RFRA “which prohibits the Federal Government from taking any action that substantially burdens the exercise of religion unless that action constitutes the least restrictive means of serving a compelling government interest.”
The outcry from the secularists was immediate and vicious. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) published a full-page advertisement in the New York Times:
Pictured at the top is birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger, the racist, atheist founder of Planned Parenthood whose motto was “No Gods – No Masters.” The advertisement criticizes the “all male, all-Roman Catholic majority” of the Supreme Court who voted to protect Americans’ religious rights in the case, accusing them of “putting religious wrongs over women’s rights.”
In canonizing Sanger, the FFRF showed its true colors. In addition to being an advocate of racism and eugenics, Sanger advocated infanticide. In her book Woman and the New Race (1920), Sanger seems conflicted on the issue of both infanticide and abortion. In the second chapter, she decries both as “abhorrent practices” and yet criticizes the Catholic church for attempting to stop abortion. In the fifth chapter, one finds the following sentence:
Many have argued that this quote makes sense only when read in context. Sanger was not advocating infanticide. She was merely lamenting the horrors that would befall anyone unfortunate enough to be born into such a large family.
Here’s the full paragraph:
Many, perhaps, will think it idle to go farther in demonstrating the immorality of large families, but since there is still an abundance of proof at hand, it may be offered for the sake of those who find difficulty in adjusting old-fashioned ideas to the facts. The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it. The same factors which create the terrible infant mortality rate, and which swell the death rate of children between the ages of one and five, operate even more extensively to lower the health rate of the surviving members. Moreover, the overcrowded homes of large families reared in poverty further contribute to this condition. Lack of medical attention is still another factor, so that the child who must struggle for health in competition with other members of a closely packed family has still great difficulties to meet after its poor constitution and malnutrition have been accounted for.
Id., Chapter V.
Oh the horrors of the tenement.
The seeming ambivalence toward infanticide is more apparent than real. Sanger argued that there was a natural “evolution” from infanticide to abortion to contraception, with all three stages of fertility-control offering legitimate ways for women to avoid what she called “involuntary motherhood”:
Moreover, if contraceptives proved not to be foolproof, she saw no reason not to fall back on abortion (if it were “skilled”) and infanticide. Indeed, she explicitly approved of mothers exposing their infants in ancient Sparta and Rome, as well as drowning their girl-infants in contemporary China. She regarded the right to kill their infants as evidence of women’s high status in antiquity, and so she excoriated early Christians for replacing infanticide with orphanages.
Gardiner, Anne Barbeau, “Margaret Sanger’s Multifaceted Defense of Abortion and Infanticide.” UFFL, Vol 16.
In The Pivot of Civilization (1931), Sanger decries the random and chaotic breeding that has “resulted from our stupid, cruel sentimentalism” and has resulted in the increase in numbers of the “inferior classes.” The “most urgent problem to-day is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective. Possibly drastic and Spartan methods may be forced upon American society if it continues complacently to encourage the chance and chaotic breeding that has.”
The reference to Sparta should send a chill down the spine to anyone familiar with the history of civilization. The history of infanticide is gruesome. As hard as it may be to imagine today, throughout history infanticide was a common and endorsed practice. Although it still occurs today, all governments outlaw it. And, in the West at least, society and culture condemn it. So how did we get from there to here? From earlier societies that condoned and encouraged infanticide to a society that condemns and discourages it?
The short answer: Christianity. And before it: Judaism. Yes, those male Roman Catholic judges decried by the FFRF are heirs to a moral system that transformed ancient civilization by declaring that every human being has an essential dignity. Yes there have been some bumps along the road. But think about where we started.
Pagan society approved of infanticide and encouraged it. “Not only was the exposure of infants a very common practice, it was justified by law and advocated by philosophers.” Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity, page 118. In Greece and ancient Rome a child was virtually its father’s chattel-e.g., in Roman law, the Patria Protestas granted the father the right to dispose of his offspring as he saw fit. In Sparta, the decision was made by a public official. The Twelve Tables of Roman Law held: “Deformed infants shall be killed” De Legibus, 3.8. Of course, deformed was broadly construed and often meant no more than the baby appeared “weakly.” The Twelve Tables also explicitly permitted a father to expose any female infant. Stark, supra, p. 118.
Leading pagan leaders and philosophers also encouraged the practice. Cicero defended infanticide by referring to the Twelve Tables. Plato and Aristotle recommended infanticide as legitimate state policy. Cornelius Tacitus went so far as to condemn the Jews for their opposition to infanticide. He stated that the Jewish view that “it was a deadly sin to kill an unwanted child” was just another of the many “sinister and revolting practices” of the Jews. Histories 5.5. Even Seneca, otherwise known for his relatively high moral standards, stated, “we drown children at birth who are weakly and abnormal.” De Ira 1.15.
The anti-Catholic screed published by the FFRF demonstrates the real agenda of that organization and its fellow travelers—to send civilization back to paganism. Get rid of Christianity, especially Catholicism. Get rid of Judaism, with its “sinister and revolting practices.” Go back to ancient civilization and allow parents to murder their unwanted children. All with the blessing of Margaret Sanger.