Is Eugenics Still Occurring?
Just the other day, one of my professor’s brought up the Lynchburg Story, a home for the “feeble-minded” which practiced eugenics by sterilizing its inmates in the 1930s-1940s. I was shocked, especially since J.B.S. Haldane predicted exactly this occurrence in his mock essay within the article “Daedalus, or, Science and the Future.” (1923) I did a little digging and learned about Carrie Buck, who was forcibly sterilized after taking her case to the Supreme Court. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. concurred with a lower court ruling that Carrie Buck “is the probable potential parent of socially inadequate offspring, likewise afflicted….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. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”
Multiple states passed sterilization laws after Carrie Buck’s case. Not many years later, Americans method of eugenics inspired the Nazis. “After a German sterilization law passed in 1933, the Nazis sterilized more mental patients in one year than had been cumulatively sterilized in the U.S. over several decades.”
But all this occurred in the past, right? What about women who choose to have abortions because prenatal genetic testing determines the fetus has a genetic disease? Granted, this is a parent’s decision instead of the government’s, but somehow I don’t think the government is mourning the loss of those children who would have cost them millions of dollars in care throughout their lifetime. But still, are we practicing eugenics on ourselves by avoiding the birth of a child who could have a genetic disorder simply because they are not a perfect specimen of a human being? This even brings up my last blog post about genetic testing on adults. Do you choose not to marry someone because you both carry a gene for a genetic disorder?
Even doctors play a role in encouraging eugenics. Kay Jamison, a woman with manic depression, was warned by her doctor that if she had children she could pass the trait on to them.
My point is, although eugenics is not enforced by a political entity anymore (in the US), it still may be occurring based on our decisions to have children or even with whom to reproduce.
A Quick History on Eugenics: http://www.dnai.org/e/index.html