Survival of the Fittest: The (im)Morality of Modern Eugenics

Last night I read an article in Time Magazine that in one sense disturbed me, but in another sense gave me a little hope. It was a thoughtful piece on medical advances as it relates to babies with Down syndrome. The article, Early Decision: Will new advances in prenatal testing shrink the ranks of babies with Down syndrome? by Bonnie Rochman, presents the idea of the percentage of those babies born with Down syndrome will greatly decrease in the coming years. She justifies her argument by stating that, with the current percentage (over 50%) of identified Down syndrome pregnancies ‘terminated,’ a new test has the potential to increase (over 98%). The test is able to identify the syndrome extremely early in the pregnancy, increasing the likelihood that the mother will be less hostile toward the idea of termination. She then argues the morality of terminating such a pregnancy when medical science is able to correct most of the health issues that shortened the life of an individual with Down syndrome.

I found the entire article to be informative, but extremely disturbing. Forget the issue of abortion completely (which I find to be an abhorrence nearly equal to slavery); this idea of ‘straining out’ those we deem less worthy of life, or inferior, is disturbing.

Eugenics became an extremely popular mindset (although an absolute failure as a science) among progressives in the early 1900’s, they transferred much of their experiments to Hitler’sGermany. Following Hitler’s defeat, they secretly continued to terrorize the uneducated and minorities in America up until 1983. The theory behind eugenics makes logical sense… but not in reality. Eugenics teaches in essence that if we are somehow able to breed the ‘undesirable’ qualities out of a plant/animal/human, then that plant/animal/human race will become stronger. The problem that the secular progressives, who thought of humans as simply a more-evolved form of animal, faced was the fact that humans can improve themselves. Eugenicists who chose to recognize this reasoned that the children of a success story would still be born with the same defects that their parents had initially. The ideal human race for these eugenicists would be a Nordic/German without any ‘mongrelizing’ (‘mongrels’ include mixing with any other white race, besides those of Nordic descent). Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt were big fans of the idea and propagated the supposed ‘science’ through government programs of sterilization of those deemed unfit to reproduce. White people labeled as ‘White Trash’ were sterilized (White Trash was anyone who was poor, sick, uneducated, or unintelligent) and all non-white persons were considered inferior as well.

The Supreme Court even approved of forced sterilization in a 1927 ruling, with the reasoning:

The judgment finds the facts that have been recited and that Carrie Buck ‘is the probable potential parent of socially inadequate offspring, likewise afflicted, that she may be sexually sterilized without detriment to her general health and that her welfare and that of society will be promoted by her sterilization,’ and thereupon makes the order…

We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes.

-Buck v. Bell 274 U.S. 200 (1927)

It should be noted that a single Justice dissented, Justice Butler.

Other recognizable early pioneers in eugenics for the purpose of ‘weeding out’ the ‘inferior’ races also included Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood), Andrew Carnegie (founder of the Carnegie Foundation), and many others.

As recent as 2009, comments have been made revealing the persistence of those who believe in the idea of eugenics:

 “Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion…”

-Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

(July 7, 2009 interview with the New York Times)

I’m not really writing this to convince you of the blindingly obvious inherent racism in organizations, such as Planned Parenthood… if you choose to ignore it that’s your own choice. However, I believe that every child should have the opportunity to survive; regardless of the conditions that led to his/her formation. The failed science of Eugenics is obviously morally reprehensible, that’s probably why it was repackaged by its believers into nice little clinics and sold as ‘convenience,’ ‘birth-control,’ and an issue of ‘women’s rights.’ Proponents of such practices are deathly afraid of the thought that an ultrasound be required prior to an abortion or that the pregnant mother be educated on what is really taking place. Their eugenic methods fully rely on the fact that the women choosing their services are not fully educated on the matter. This is why activists are embroiled in a battle now to prevent laws requiring education… it will slow down their filtering of the ‘less than desirable’ from among us.

Politically, it’s really quite a brilliant deception… eugenic activists claim that ‘forcing’ a mother to fully understand the abortion procedure is cruel… really, the proponents are worried that the mother will come to a truthful realization of the cruelty of the abortion procedure.

Back to my initial premise of the Time magazine article regarding early detection of a Down syndrome pregnancy… old-school eugenics would sterilize children who were given the medical label of ‘idiot, imbecile,’ or ‘moron’ (seriously, that was considered a medical diagnosis). Now, with modern technology, we can prevent the child from being born (through a torturous, but less visible procedure).

What gave me hope at the end of the Time article? The mother could not bring herself to terminate the pregnancy after seeing the ultrasound; she says she could not be happier with her decision. When asked about life with her daughter, now four, she replied:

‘She’s not going to do quantum physics, but I don’t do quantum physics. Gracie has shown me I’m not in control of everything.’

DISCLAIMER: For all of those reading this who falsely consider themselves to be intellectuals and will undoubtedly say “You have no business talking about this, you are a man.” I should let you know this was approved by members of the opposite sex prior to publicizing.

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