Pope Pius XI

Gregor Mendel

Days of Nietzsche in Turin
2001 Brazilian film

THE Augustinian Abbot Gregor Mendel published the results of his experiments on garden peas from 1856-1863; but their significance for the developing science of genetics was not appreciated until the turn of the century.  Mendel’s science of heredity was fused in a muddled way by some with Friedrich Nietzsche’s  notion of a philosophical “superman” (Übermensch) who evolved beyond the constraints of Christian morality to discover the true potential of human beings.


CHARLES DARWIN (1809-1882)


ALTHOUGH Darwin emphasized the necessity for compassion, even when it appears to contradict natural selection, later “Social Darwinists” reinterpreted select passages from the following text:

With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health.  We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one up to the last moment. ...  Vaccination has preserved thousands who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to smallpox. Thus, the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind.  No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man....  Excepting in the case of man himself, hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

[Yet,] the aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the [otherwise good] instinct of sympathy....  We must therefore bear the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak surviving and propagating their kind ... (501f)

From Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man (1871)]

CRITICIZED for what were perceived as his attacks on traditional Christian belief, Darwin nevertheless considered himself a theist:

Although I did not think much about the existence of a personal God until a considerably later period of my life, I will here give the vague conclusions to which I have been driven. The old argument of design in nature, as given by Paley, which formerly seemed to me so conclusive, fails, now that the law of natural selection has been discovered. We can no longer argue that, for instance, the beautiful hinge of a bivalve shell must have been made by an intelligent being, like the hinge of a door by man. There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the wind blows. Everything in nature is the result of fixed laws. …
    At the present day the most usual argument for the existence of an intelligent God is drawn from the deep inward conviction and feelings which are experienced by most persons…. This argument would be a valid one if all men of all races had the same inward conviction of the existence of one God; but we know that this is very far from being the case. Therefore I cannot see that such inward convictions and feelings are of any weight as evidence of what really exists. The state of mind which grand scenes formerly excited in me, and which was intimately connected with a belief in God, did not essentially differ from that which is often called the sense of sublimity; and however difficult it may be to explain the genesis of this sense, it can hardly be advanced as an argument for the existence of God, any more than the powerful though vague and similar feelings excited by music….

    Another source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with the reason and not with the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist.

From Charles Darwin, Autobiography (1892)]


FRANCIS GALTON (1822-1911)



ENGLISH social scientist, [cousin of Darwin, who disapproved of many of Galton's views] made significant contributions to the fields of statistics and heredity, including the first significant twin study in 1883.  Described as a virulent racist, he popularized the phrase “nature and nurture” emphasizing the sole importance on intelligence of heredity; he denied the significance of environment on intelligence. [Britannica 98: Galton proposed that a system of arranged marriages between men of distinction and women of wealth would eventually produce a gifted race.] He also coined the term “eugenics” in 1883 and effectively founded the eugenics movement, although his ideas were not widely accepted until the turn of the century and the rediscovery of Mendel's laws of inheritance.

The subject of Race Improvement, or Eugenics, with which I have much occupied myself during the last few years, is a pursuit of no recent interest . . . I think that stern compulsion ought to be exerted to prevent the free propagation of the stock of those who are seriously afflicted by lunacy, feeble- mindedness, habitual criminality, and pauperism, but that is quite different from compulsory marriage. How to restrain ill-omened marriages is a question by itself, whether it should be effected by seclusion, or in other ways yet to be devised that are consistent with a humane and well-informed public opinion. I cannot doubt that our democracy will ultimately refuse consent to that liberty of propagating children which is now allowed to the undesirable classes, but the populace has yet to be taught the true state of these things. A democracy cannot endure unless it be composed of able citizens; therefore it must in self-defence withstand the free introduction of degenerate stock.

From Francis Galton, Memories of My Life ,
ch, 21, “Race Improvement.”




 DURING the 19th century, scientists investigated the acquisition of biological and behavioral traits. British biologist Francis Galton, who first made the “nature-nurture” distinction, studied the “comparative worth” of different races in 1883, using the term eugenics to describe the process of strengthening the human race through selective breeding. Some 30 years earlier, French count Joseph Arthur de Gobineau had described race as the driving force of human history, arguing that there were several pure racial archetypes and attributing superior intelligence to the “Aryan” archetype.

In On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859), Charles Darwin outlined a biological theory about how new species are formed and existing ones become extinct. After its publication, many anthropologists and scientists sought to apply this theory to humans. Known as social Darwinists, they explained human society in terms of natural selection and were presumably inspired by Darwin’s candor:

The American Eugenics Society, founded in 1926, supported the proposition that the wealth and social position of the upper classes was justified by a superior genetic endowment. U.S. eugenists also supported restrictions on immigration from nations with inferior stock, such as Italy, Greece, and countries of eastern Europe, and argued for the sterilization of insane, retarded, and epileptic citizens in the United States. As a result of their efforts, sterilization laws were passed in more than half of the U.S. states, and isolated instances of involuntary sterilization continued into the 1970s. The assumptions of eugenists came under sharp criticism beginning in the 1930s and were discredited after the German Nazis used eugenics to support the extermination of Jews, Gypsies, the insane, and homosexuals.

The history of state-sponsored sterilization in the United States began with legislation in Indiana in 1907. By 1926, 23 states had enacted sterilization laws, which were motivated mainly by eugenic and therapeutic concerns. Eighteen of these states mandated involuntary sterilization of certain mentally defective persons or certain kinds of criminals. In Oregon, Montana, and Idaho, laws provided for both voluntary and involuntary sterilization, and in Iowa, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Maine, laws provided for voluntary sterilization alone. In all but one of these eight states with voluntary laws (Idaho), consent was not required from a patient if he or she was incapable of giving it; written consent from a relative or guardian was sufficient. Such “voluntary” laws would therefore be more aptly described as nonvoluntary. Most states confined compulsory sterilization to inmates of public mental institutions, in which the proportion of poor and minority residents was greater than that in the general population; for instance, inmates sterilized in Virginia and California were disproportionately black or foreign-born, respectively.


California and eight other states were responsible for most of the eugenic sterilizations performed under state laws.

The cumulative number of sterilizations in these states by 1943 was

16,553 in California,

4472 in Virginia

2706 in Kansas

2388 in Michigan

2111 in Minnesota

1597 in Oregon

1372 in Wisconsin

1346 in North Carolina

1231 in Indiana


By 1944, 30 states with sterilization laws had reported a total of more than 40,000 eugenic sterilizations; of those sterilized,

20,600 were reported as insane and

20,453 as feebleminded.

In the pre-Nazi period, German eugenicists expressed admiration for U.S. leadership in instituting sterilization programs and communicated with their U.S. colleagues about strategies .


Despite waning scientific and public support and the history of the human rights abuses of Nazi Germany, state-sponsored sterilizations in the United States continued long after the war, totaling approximately 22000 in 27 states between 1943 and 1963.


André N. Sofair, MD, MPH; and Lauris C. Kaldjian, MD. Eugenic Sterilization and a Qualified Nazi Analogy: The United States and Germany, 1930-1945. Annals of Internal Medicine 15 February 2000 Volume 132 N. 4, pp. 312-319.

 Pope Pius XI and the Answer to Genetics






On Christian Marriage

Encyclical of Pope Pius XI
(Dec. 31, 1930)

  Pope Pius XI  (1922-1939)

63. But another very grave crime is to be noted, Venerable Brethren, which regards the taking of the life of the offspring hidden in the mother’s womb. Some wish it to be allowed and left to the will of the father or the mother; others say it is unlawful unless there are weighty reasons which they call by the name of medical, social, or eugenic “indication.” Because this matter falls under the penal laws of the state by which the destruction of the offspring begotten but unborn is forbidden, these people demand that the “indication,” which in one form or another they defend, be recognized as such by the public law and in no way penalized. There are those, moreover, who ask that the public authorities provide aid for these death-dealing operations, a thing, which, sad to say, everyone knows is of very frequent occurrence in some places. Sed aliud, etiam, Venerabiles Fratres, gravissimum commemorandum est facinus, quo vita prolis, in sinu materno reconditae, attentatur. Id autem permissum volunt alti et matris patrisve beneplacito relictum; alli tamen illicitum dicunt, nisi pergraves accedant causae, quas medieae, socialis, eugenicae indicationis nomine appellant. Hi omnes quod ad poenales reipublicae leges attinet, quibus genitae necdum natae prolis peremptio prohibetur, exigunt, ut quam singuli, alti aliam, defendunt indicationem, eandem etiam leges publicae agnoscant et ab omni poena liberam declarent. Immo nec desunt qui postulent, ut ad has letiferas sectiones magistratus publici praebeant auxiliatrices manus; id quod, proh dolor, alicubi quam frequentissinle fieri omnibus notum est.

64. As to the “medical and therapeutic indication” to which, using their own words, we have made reference, Venerable Brethren, however much we may pity the mother whose health and even life is gravely imperiled in the performance of the duty allotted to her by nature, nevertheless what could ever be a sufficient reason for excusing in any way the direct murder of the innocent? This is precisely what we are dealing with here. Whether inflicted upon the mother or upon the child, it is against the precept of God and the law of nature: “Thou shalt not kill:”[Exod., XX, 13; cfr. Decr. S. Offic. 4 May 1897, 24 July 1895; 31 May 1884.] The life of each is equally sacred, and no one has the power, not even the public authority, to destroy it. It is of no use to appeal to the right of taking away life for here it is a question of the innocent, whereas that right has regard only to the guilty; nor is there here question of defense by bloodshed against an unjust aggressor (for who would call an innocent child an unjust aggressor?); again there is not question here of what is called the “law of extreme necessity” which could even extend to the direct killing of the innocent. Upright and skillful doctors strive most praiseworthily to guard and preserve the lives of both mother and child; on the contrary, those show themselves most unworthy of the noble medical profession who encompass the death of one or the other, through a pretense at practicing medicine or through motives of misguided pity.

Quod vero attinet ad  «indicationem medicam et therapeuticam» — ut eorum verbis utamur — iam diximus, Venerabiles Fratres, quantopere Nos misereat matris, cui ex naturae officio gravia imminent sanitatis, immo ipsius vitae pericula: at quae possit umquam causa valere ad ullo modo excusandam directam innocentis necem? De hac enim hoc loco agitur. Sive ea matri infertur sive proli, contra Dei praeceptum est vocemque naturae : «Non occides!» (52). Res enim aeque sacra utriusque vita, cuius opprimendae nulla esse unquam poterit ne publicae quidem auctoritati facultas. Ineptissime autem haec con tra innocentes repetitur e iure gladii, quod in solos reos valet; neque ullum viget hic cruentae defensionis ius contra iniustum aggressorem (nam quis innocentem parvulum iniustum aggressorem vocet?); neque ullum adest «extremae necessitatis ius» quod vocant, quodque usque ad innocentis directam occisionem pervenire possit. In utraque igitur et matris et prolis vita tuenda ac servanda probi expertique medici cum laude enituntur; contra, nobili medicorum nomine et laude indignissimos se li probarent, quotquot alterutri, per speciem medicandi, vel falsa misericordia moti, ad mortem insidiarentur.
65. All of which agrees with the stern words of the Bishop of Hippo in denouncing those wicked parents who seek to remain childless, and failing in this, are not ashamed to put their offspring to death: Quae quidem plane severis consonant verbis quibus Episcopus Hipponensis in coniuges depravatos invehitur, qui proli quidem praecavere student, at, si nullo exitu, nefarie eam interimere non verentur:

 “Sometimes this lustful cruelty or cruel lust goes so far as to seek to procure a baneful sterility, and if this fails the fetus conceived in the womb is in one way or another smothered or evacuated, in the desire to destroy the offspring before it has life, or if it already lives in the womb, to kill it before it is born. If both man and woman are party to such practices they are not spouses at all; and if from the first they have carried on thus they have come together not for honest wedlock, but for impure gratification; if both are not party to these deeds, I make bold to say that either the one makes herself a mistress of the husband, or the other simply the paramour of his wife.”

[St. August., De nupt. et concupisc., cap. XV.]

«Aliquando eo usque,  inquit, pervenit haec libidinosa crudelitas vel libido crudelis, ut etiam sterilitatis venena procuret, et si nihil valuerit, conceptos fetus aliquo modo intra viscera exstinguat ac fundat, volendo suam prolem prius interire quam vivere, aut si in utero iam vivebat, occidi antequam nasci. Prorsus, si ambo tales sunt, coniuges non sunt: et si ab initio tales fuerunt, non sibi per connubium sed per stuprum potius convenerunt; si autem non ambo sunt tales, audeo dicere: aut illa est quodammodo meretrix mariti, aut ille adulter uxoris» (53).

66. What is asserted in favor of the social and eugenic “indication” may and must be accepted, provided lawful and upright methods are employed within the proper limits; but to wish to put forward reasons based upon them for the killing of the innocent is unthinkable and contrary to the divine precept promulgated in the words of the Apostle: Evil is not to be done that good may come of it. [Rom., III, 8.]

Quae autem afferuntur pro sociali et eugenica indicatione, licitis honestisque modis et intra debitos limites, earum quidem rerum ratio haberi potest et debet; at necessitatibus, quibus eae innituntur, per occisionem innocentium providere velle absonum est praeceptoque divino contrarium, apostolicis etim verbis promulgato: Non esse facienda mala ut eveniant bona (54).
67. Those who hold the reins of government should not forget that it is the duty of public authority by appropriate laws and sanctions to defend the lives of the innocent, and this all the more so since those whose lives are endangered and assailed cannot defend themselves. Among whom we must mention in the first place infants hidden in the mother’s womb. And if the public magistrates not only do not defend them, but by their laws and ordinances betray them to death at the hands of doctors or of others, let them remember that God is the Judge and Avenger of innocent blood which cried from earth to Heaven. [Gen., 4, 10.] Iis denique, qui apud nationes principatum tenent feruntve leges, oblivioni dare non licet auctoritatis publicae esse, congruis legibus poenisque, innocentium vitam defendere, idque eo magis, quo minus ii, quorum vita periclitatur et impugnatur, se ipsi defendere valent, inter quos primum sane locum tenent infantes in visceribus maternis abditi. Quod si publici magistratus parvulos illos non solum non tueantur, sed, legibus suisque ordinationibus, permittant atque adeo tradant medicorum aliorumve manibus occidendos, meminerint Deum iudicem esse et vindicem sanguinis innocentis, qui de terra clamat ad caelum (55).
68. FINALLY, that pernicious practice must be condemned which closely touches upon the natural right of man to enter matrimony but affects also in a real way the welfare of the offspring. For there are some who over solicitous for the cause of eugenics, not only give salutary counsel for more certainly procuring the strength and health of the future child - which, indeed, is not contrary to right reason - but put eugenics before aims of a higher order, and by public authority wish to prevent from marrying all those whom, even though naturally fit for marriage, they consider, according to the norms and conjectures of their investigations, would, through hereditary transmission, bring forth defective offspring. And more, they wish to legislate to deprive these of that natural faculty by medical action despite their unwillingness; and this they do not propose as an infliction of grave punishment under the authority of the state for a crime committed, not to prevent future crimes by guilty persons, but against every right and good they wish the civil authority to arrogate to itself a power over a faculty which it never had and can never legitimately possess. Reprobetur denique oportet perniciosus ille usus, qui proxime quidem naturale hominis ius ad matrimonium ineundum spectat, sed ad prolis quoque bonum vera quadam ratione pertinet. Sunt enim qui, de finibus eugenicis nimium solliciti, non solum salubria quaedam dent consilia ad futurae prolis valetudinem ac robur tutius procurandum — quod rectae rationi utique contrarium non est — sed cuilibet alii etiam altioris ordinis fini eugenicum anteponant, et coniugio auctoritate publica prohiberi velint eos omnes ex quibus, secundum disciplinae suae normas et coniecturas, propter hereditariam transmissionem, mancam vitiosamque prolem generatum iri censent, etiamsi iidem sint ad matrimonium ineundum per se apti. Quin immo naturali illa facultate, ex lege, eos, vel invitos, medicorum opera privari volunt; neque id ad cruentam sceleris commissi poenam publica auctoritate repetendam, vel ad futura eorum crimina praecavenda, licebit, scilicet contra omne ius et fas ea magistratibus civilibus arrogata facultate, quam numquam habuerunt nec legitime habere possunt.
69. Those who act in this way are at fault in losing sight of the fact that the family is more sacred than the State and that men are begotten not for the earth and for time, but for Heaven and eternity. Although often these individuals are to be dissuaded from entering into matrimony, certainly it is wrong to brand men with the stigma of crime because they contract marriage, on the ground that, despite the fact that they are in every respect capable of matrimony, they will give birth only to defective children, even though they use all care and diligence. Quicumque ita agunt, perperam dant oblivioni sanctiorem esse familiam Statu, hominesque in primis non terrae et tempori, sed caelo et aeternitati generari. Et fas profecto non est homines, matrimonii ceteroqui capaces, quos, adhibita etiam omni cura et diligentia, nonni si mancam genituros esse prolem conicitur, ob eam causam gravi culpa onerare si coniugium contrahant, quamquam saepe matrimonium iis dissuadendum est.
70. Public magistrates have no direct power over the bodies of their subjects; therefore, where no crime has taken place and there is no cause present for grave punishment, they can never directly harm, or tamper with the integrity of the body, either for the reasons of eugenics or for any other reason. St. Thomas teaches this when inquiring whether human judges for the sake of preventing future evils can inflict punishment, he admits that the power indeed exists as regards certain other forms of evil, but justly and properly denies it as regards the maiming of the body. “No one who is guiltless may be punished by a human tribunal either by flogging to death, or mutilation, or by beating.”[Summ. theol., 2a 2ae, q. 108 a 4 ad 2um.] Publici vero magistratus in subditorum membra directam potestatem habent nullam; ipsam igitur corporis integritatem, ubi nulla intercesserit culpa nullaque adsit eruentae poenae causa, directo laedere et attingere nec eugenicis nec ullis aliis de causis possunt unquam. Idem docet Sanctus Thomas Aquinas, cum, inquirens num humani iudices ad futura mala praecavenda hominem possint malo quodam plectere, id quidem concedit quod ad quaedam alia mala, sed iure meritoque negat quod ad corporis laesionem «Numquam secundum humanum iudicium aliquis debet puniri, sine culpa, poena flagelli, ut occidatur, vel mutiletur vel verberetur» (56).
71. Furthermore, Christian doctrine establishes, and the light of human reason makes it most clear, that private individuals have no other power over the members of their bodies than that which pertains to their natural ends; and they are not free to destroy or mutilate their members, or in any other way render themselves unfit for their natural functions, except when no other provision can be made for the good of the whole body. Ceterum, quod ipsi privati homines in sui corporis membra dominatum alium non habeant quam qui ad eorum naturales fines pertineat, nec possint ea destruere aut mutilare aut alia via ad naturales funetiones se ineptos reddere, nisi quando bono totius corporis aliter provideri nequeat, id christiana doctrina statuit atque ex ipso humanae rationis lumine omnino constat.

Modern Eugenics Revivals

ZENIT News Agency, The World Seen from Rome, MARCH 22, 2003

  Eugenic Mentality Lives On

SACRAMENTO, California,  ( Public authorities in several American states have apologized for the forced sterilization programs that left thousands unable to have children. In the decades following World War I, many states imposed sterilization on people they considered to be unfit to reproduce.

Last week Governor Gray Davis of California made a public apology, the Los Angeles Times reported March 12. “It was a sad and regrettable chapter ... one that must never be repeated,” Davis said in a statement.

According to the newspaper, California and 31 other states at various times between 1909 and 1964 sterilized up to about 60,000 people. At a California Senate hearing on eugenics, Paul Lombardo said the programs were intended to “clean up the gene pool.”

The governor’s apology did not go so far as to propose reparations or other compensation to the victims or their families. Lombardo said it would be difficult for survivors to collect damages in a lawsuit against the government because the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld the constitutionality of forced sterilization in 1927.

In late 2002, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber also apologized for the forcible sterilizations, Reuters reported Dec. 2. More than 2,600 people were affected in the state. With Kitzhaber’s apology, Oregon became the second state to formally admit it made a mistake. Virginia apologized last May.

For six decades, starting in 1923, Oregon’s Board of Eugenics oversaw castrations, tubal ligations and hysterectomies of patients at state institutions. Some patients were denied release until they agreed to be sterilized.

Days after the Oregon apology, North Carolina Governor Mike Easley also made a public apology for his state’s role in sterilizing more than 7,600 people in a program that lasted until 1974. According to the Winston-Salem Journal on Dec. 13, children as young as 10 were sterilized under the state program, which was often characterized by coercion and flawed intelligence- testing. On Feb. 11 the newspaper reported that Easley appointed a committee to consider reparations for the victims.

A few days later, on Feb. 16, the Journal reported on the contents of more than 1,400 documents released to the newspaper. The documents told of the demise of the Eugenics Board of North Carolina, which had ordered the sterilizations.

The board met monthly in Raleigh, the capital, to consider petitions for sterilizations from social workers statewide, rapidly reading case-descriptions and usually voting to sterilize. Board members spent little time considering the merits of individual cases. “The members are all busy with their own work,” Ellen Winston, a board chairwoman, wrote in a 1955 memo. “They, therefore, have little opportunity to give thought to their responsibility to this other important program.”

  Still a threat

Forced sterilizations are not a thing of the past. The London Times on Feb. 26 reported on the plight of Gypsy women in eastern Slovakia. One of them, Zita, was given a paper to sign just after she had given birth to her second daughter in 1998. She is illiterate and nobody explained the paper’s contents to her. Later, she was told that she had given her consent to being sterilized.

According to the Times, forced sterilization of Gypsies in Slovakia was official policy under the Communists and dates from the Nazi era. Even now, the Gypsy women’s hospital files are stamped to identify their race.

Slovakia’s Interior Ministry announced that it will send a special team of investigators to look into the sterilization claims, the New York Times reported March 6. According to the New York paper, reports by two non-governmental organizations allege that at least 110 Gypsy women have been sterilized without their consent since the fall of Communism in 1989. Local doctors and regional officials deny the accusations.

Gypsies make up an estimated 10% of Slovakia’s 5.4 million people, and the matter could complicate the final talks on Slovakia’s entrance into the European Union next year.

In the United States, past errors have not stopped a group from promoting sterilization of drug addicts and alcoholics. The Washington Times reported Jan. 8 on the organization Children Requiring a Caring Kommunity (CRACK), which is paying people $200 in exchange for sterilization or long-term birth control.

CRACK reasons that it is better for a child not to be born than to suffer the physical and psychological damage inherited from addicted parents. Barbara Harris, who founded the group in 1997, denies she is a racist. In fact, she claims that more white women than black have availed themselves of the group’s services.

But Lynn Paltrow, executive director of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, accuses Harris of racial targeting. “Nearly half the women she has paid are African-Americans,” said Paltrow.

CRACK, which started in Orange County, California, recently opened an office in the New York borough of Brooklyn.

According to the New York Times on Jan. 6, Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in Brooklyn has plans to refer patients recovering in the psychiatric emergency room to CRACK. And the director of chemical dependency services at Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn said he was reviewing the program.

But Dr. Van Dunn, the chief medical officer of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, which oversees facilities in all five boroughs, said no hospital in his organization would have anything to do with CRACK.

The group started in 1997, and so far 833 women and 21 men nationwide have accepted the $200 offer. Of these, 369 have been sterilized and the rest have gone on long-term birth control, according to Harris.

  Certified to marry

In China, some couples are obliged to use long-term contraception for eugenic purposes. Before being able to marry, prospective couples must undergo a series of medical tests. The tests involve inquiries about hereditary illness, learning disorders and psychiatric problems, according to a report published Feb. 1 by the British Medical Journal. There is also a physical examination, including laboratory tests.

Couples who meet the grade receive a certificate of health for marriage. In other cases, about 1% to 10% of people in the 10 hospitals visited by the author of the article, marriage must be postponed pending some form of treatment or counseling.

A smaller number of couples must agree to permanent contraception in order to receive the marriage certificate. This restriction generally applies to people with severe psychiatric disease or low intelligence, the British Medical Journal said. “China unashamedly espouses the need to improve the quality of the population,” the article observed.

When sterilization and contraceptives fail, abortion is sometimes used to eliminate “defective” babies. The London Sunday Times reported Oct. 27 on a case where a doctor performed an abortion on a woman six months  pregnant who decided she didn’t want a baby with a harelip.

Staff at the Cleft Lip and Palate Association, which provides advice and support for families seeking surgery for their babies, declared surprise at the abortion. “It is usually totally correctable, and is done in very young babies,” said a spokeswoman. Future generations will also have some apologizing to do -- for the evils of today’s eugenicists.


By DENISE LAVOIE, Associated Press Legal Affairs
Writer – Feb 21, 2012



Judge Christine Harms


BOSTON (AP) — A retired Massachusetts judge on Tuesday defended her decision to order a mentally ill woman to have an abortion and be sterilized against her wishes, and she blasted Boston University for rescinding a job offer after her ruling sparked controversy.

Christina Harms said she believes the schizophrenic woman would have chosen to have an abortion if she had been mentally competent. In her ruling, she granted a petition from the woman’s parents to have their daughter declared incompetent and awarded guardianship to them for the purpose of consenting to the abortion.

Harms’ ruling drew spirited debate among bloggers on both sides of the abortion issue. Her written ruling remains sealed under family court rules, but the gist of it became public after the state Appeals Court overturned the decision on Jan. 17.

Now Harms has taken the unusual step of defending her decision publicly, both in media interviews and in a letter she sent Monday to other family court judges in Massachusetts. The Boston Globe first reported on the judge’s letter.

Harms, who retired six days before the Appeals Court ruling, said a decision by Boston University’s School of Law to back out of a job offer shortly after the Appeals Court overturned her ruling sends the wrong message about judicial independence.

“Being a judge is not like being a contestant on ‘American Idol,’ “ Harms told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “You are not looking for votes.”

The 31-year-old woman has not been named; she was identified in court papers only as “Mary Moe.” She had characterized herself as “very Catholic” and said she was opposed to having an abortion. Her parents had said their daughter was not a devout Catholic; they sought consent from the court for an abortion.

Harms said the woman had been taken off some of her anti-psychotic drugs because the medications could have harmed the fetus. After hearing from the woman herself and from her parents, Harms said she found that the woman had severe delusions — including her belief that she was not pregnant — and was not competent to decide whether to have an abortion. Harms said she also found that the woman, if she had been mentally competent, would have chosen an abortion to protect her own well-being.

“I viewed the interruption of Mary’s full medical regimen as potentially life-threatening. If Mary understood this, which my observation of her behavior, demeanor, and responses indicated that she did not, I believed then, as I do now, that she would elect to abort the pregnancy in order to protect her own well-being,” Harms wrote in her letter to her former colleagues on the bench.

Harms said she had been negotiating with BU’s law school since August about a newly created position where she would help the school in its efforts to increase the number of judicial clerkships and internships offered to its law students. On Jan. 17 — the day the Appeals Court ruled — she said she received an email from a BU official asking her to send a short biography and photo to introduce her to the law school community. Three days later, after a media flurry about her ruling, she said she got an email from the school canceling an appointment she had to fill out paperwork related to the job.

BU says it never made a formal job offer to Harms, but it acknowledges that the controversy created by her ruling contributed to the decision to take her out of the running for the job.

In a letter to Harms’ lawyer, BU ‘s deputy general counsel, Erika Geetter, said that it was not disagreement with the content of the judge’s ruling that caused the school not to move forward on the job.

“This matter therefore has nothing to do with academic freedom, judicial independence, ‘blacklisting,’ or ‘threats to a cornerstone of our constitutional system.’ Instead, it has everything to do with the School’s legitimate conclusion that it did not want to worry about whether an individual who was at the center of a controversy would need to overcome that obstacle when serving as the public face of the School,” Geetter wrote.

Harms said she believes the school would not have made the decision if her ruling had involved an issue other than abortion.

“I think that abortion is such a third-rail issue that it creates strong opinions, public debate, controversy. People feel very strongly about it — pro and con — and I became therefore controversial,” she said.

In overturning Harms’ decision, the Appeals Court used unusually strong language.

The court said no one had requested sterilization and said Harms “appears to have simply produced the requirement out of thin air.”

Harms said she based her sterilization order on concerns that the woman had had two previous pregnancies and would continue to have unprotected sex, unplanned pregnancies and therefore “serial abortions.” The woman had aborted one of her earlier pregnancies. Her parents are raising a child she gave birth to from the other pregnancy.

“I frankly felt it would be cowardly for me not to address it,” Harms said Tuesday.

Retired Appeals Court Judge Rudolph Kass called the decision by BU “unfortunate.”

“You don’t want judges sniffing at the winds to see what’s popular,” Kass said. “They should be trying to do what’s right in the circumstances.”


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