Modern Defenders and Revivals of Eugenics


1.1 Magisterial Warnings; 1.1.1. Donum Vitae (1978); 1.1.2. Dignitas Personae; 2. Forced Abortions, Past and Present; 3. Massachusetts Judge Defends Forced Abortion Ruling; 4. L.A. Times: Is There Good Eugenics?





from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith







1.3. Donum Vitae (On Respect for Human Life in its Origin, 1987)



1.1.  Donum Vitæ
On Respect for Human Life in its Origin,















The inviolable right to life of every innocent human individual and the rights of the family and of the institution of marriage constitute fundamental moral values, because they concern the natural condition and integral vocation of the human person; at the same time they are constitutive elements of civil society and its order.

  Ius inviolabile ad vitam uniuscuiusque hominis innocentis atque iura familiae institutique matrimonialis, bona moralia fundamentalia censenda sunt, quippe quae condic.ionem naturalem et integram vocation?m personae humanae respiciant; suntque simul elementa quae pertinent ad ipsam civilis societatis structuram atque ordinationem.

For this reason the new technological possibilities which have opened up in the field of biomedicine require the intervention of the political authorities and of the legislator, since an uncontrolled application of such techniques could lead to unforeseeable and damaging consequences for civil society. Recourse to the conscience of each individual and to the self-regulation of researchers cannot be sufficient for ensuring respect for personal rights and public order. If the legislator responsible for the common good were not watchful, he could be deprived of his prerogatives by researchers claiming to govern humanity in the name of the biological discoveries and the alleged “improvement” processes which they would draw from those discoveries. “Eugenism” and forms of discrimination between human beings could come to be legitimized: this would constitute an act of violence and a serious offense to the equality, dignity and fundamental rights of the human person.

  Hac de causa, novaquae progrediens res technica portendit fieri posse in campo scientiae biomedicae, requirunt ut ii, penes quos snnt civilia muneraet potestas leges ferendi, auctoritatem suam interponant, quia harum technicarum rationum usus, vigilantiae non obnoxius, perduc.ere poterit ad consectaria, quae praevideri nequeunt, et detrimentum afferre civili societati. Appellatio ad nniuscuiusqne conscientiam et ad normas sibi voluntarie impositas, a scientiae investigatoribus satis non sunt ad personalia iura et reipublicae ordinem tucnda. Si legislator, in quem onus communis boni recidit, invigilare omittat, ipse expoliari possit suis praerogativis ab investigatoribns arrogantibus sibi munus gubernandi homines, nomine novoraln inventorum biologicorum et  prosperioris vitae condicionum, quae praesumuntur ex illis manare. Ita « eugenismus » et iniusta inter Creaturas humanas discriminarata haberi possint ; id vim gravemque ininriam inferat aequalitati, dignitati et primariis iuribus personae humanae.





1.4. Dignitas Personae (On Certain Bioethical Questions, 2008).



1.2  Dignitas Personæ
On Certain Bioethical Questions, (2008)



Third Part: New Treatments which Involve the Manipulation of the Embryo or the Human Genetic Patrimony

  Gene therapy

26. Procedures used on somatic cells for strictly therapeutic purposes “are in principle morally licit

With regard to germ line cell therapy, “the risks connected to any genetic manipulation are considerable and as yet not fully controllable” and therefore “in the present state of research, it is not morally permissible to act in a way that may cause possible harm to the resulting progeny

27. With regard to the possibility of using techniques of genetic engineering to introduce alterations with the presumed aim of improving and strengthening the gene pool, it must be observed that such interventions would promote a “eugenic mentalityand would introduce an indirect social stigma with regard to people who lack certain qualities, while privileging qualities that happen to be appreciated by a certain culture or society; such qualities do not constitute what is specifically human. This would be in contrast with the fundamental truth of the equality of all human beings which is expressed in the principle of justice, the violation of which, in the long run, would harm peaceful coexistence among individuals Furthermore, one wonders who would be able to establish which modifications were to be held as positive and which not, or what limits should be placed on individual requests for improvement since it would be materially impossible to fulfil the wishes of every single person. Any conceivable response to these questions would, however, derive from arbitrary and questionable criteria. All of this leads to the conclusion that the prospect of such an intervention would end sooner or later by harming the common good, by favouring the will of some over the freedom of others.  Finally it must also be noted that in the attempt to create a new type of human being one can recognize an ideological element in which man tries to take the place of his Creator.

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.




Judge Christine Harms

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

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.”





Op-Ed Adam Cohen 03 17-story.html

Above, Chase Izenstark, right, with his adopted father, inherited a genetic predisposition to Huntington’s disease from his birth father. A process called “germline streaming” could potentially edit Chase’s genes to prevent him from passing the risk to his children. (M. Spencer Green / Associated Press)

We entered a new phase as a species when Chinese scientists altered a human embryo to remove a potentially fatal blood disorder — not only from the baby, but all of its descendants. Researchers call this process “germline modification.” The media likes the phrase “designer babies.” But we should call it what it is, “eugenics.” And we, the human race, need to decide whether or not we want to use it.

Last month, the scientific establishment weighed in. A National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine joint committee endorsed embryo editing aimed at genes that cause serious diseases when there is “no reasonable alternative.” But it was more wary of editing for “enhancement,” like making already-healthy children stronger or taller. It recommended a public discussion, and said that doctors should “not proceed at this time.”

The committee had good reason to urge caution. The history of eugenics is full of oppression and misery. In the 20th century, it was used by the powerful to demonize marginalized groups and to enact laws that prevented the “unfit” from having children. But the committee was also right to support limited embryo editing. This time around, eugenics could be a force for good.

“Eugenics” was coined by Francis Galton, a half-cousin of Charles Darwin, from the Greek words for “good” and “born.” Galton argued that rather than rely on the chaotic process of evolution, humanity could take its future into its own hands by seeing to it that people with the best genes had the most children.

Rather than demonizing ‘unfit’ people and working to sterilize them, the new eugenics regards their inherited disabilities as treatable medical conditions.

The early eugenicists were idealists — men such as Theodore Roosevelt and Alexander Graham Bell — who hoped to harness science to build a better world. It did not take long, however, for what Galton called his “virile creed, full of hopefulness” to turn into something darker.

Starting with Indiana in 1907, a majority of states enacted laws authorizing forced sterilization of the “feebleminded,” a malleable category that included people who did poorly on primitive and wholly unreliable IQ tests. The laws also called for sterilizing people who were deaf, blind, sick or poor — all thought to be heritable conditions.

The Supreme Court weighed in strongly on the side of eugenics. In a now-infamous 1927 decision, it ruled that Virginia could sterilize Carrie Buck, a young woman falsely labeled feebleminded. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., writing for an 8-1 majority, called for more sterilizations to remove those who “sap the strength of the State.”

Before the eugenic era ended, some 70,000 Americans would be forcibly sterilized — many of them, like Carrie Buck, perfectly healthy, both mentally and physically. Eugenics did far more harm in Nazi Germany, where 360,000 or more people were forcibly sterilized in the service of a warped racial ideology.

Given this track record, we should certainly debate human embryo editing and all of the new human-breeding discoveries yet to come. But we should also recognize that there is a crucial difference between the old eugenics and the new. Rather than demonizing “unfit” people and working to sterilize them, the new eugenics regards their inherited disabilities as treatable medical conditions and seeks to help them have healthy children.

Some of the biggest supporters of human-embryo editing today are people who carry genes for serious disorders like beta thalassemia, the disease the Chinese scientists were working on. Jeff Carroll, a Western Washington University neuroscientist who inherited the mutation for Huntington’s disease — which can cause people to lose bodily control and slowly go mad, like his mother did — has been outspoken in favor. “I am saying, please, please do mess with our DNA,” he told the MIT Technology Review.

What we have to think about more carefully is expanding the definition of “disability” to the point that parents are editing embryos to remove shortness, shyness or other qualities they may find undesirable. We could conclude, as a society, that parents can do as they wish. Or we might conclude that editing human embryos for “enhancements” of this kind is too close to the old eugenics — and that through parents’ individual choices to design a “better” baby we run the risk of collectively trying to make ourselves into a master race. The point is that we need to figure out what we believe.

We must also guard against any attempt to make human-embryo editing mandatory. It is not, after all, such a great a leap from “you can have a genetically improved baby” to “you must have a genetically improved baby.” At the same time, we will have to make sure that everyone has the option to use the new technologies. There would be serious equity concerns if genetic screening and therapies were only available to the well-off — and inherited diseases became the exclusive preserve of the poor.

Most sobering is the fact that edits to a human embryo can be passed on to future generations. Anything with the potential to change humanity forever must not be undertaken lightly.

As a practical matter, though, the genie is already out of the bottle, and it is unlikely we could stop embryo editing if we wanted to. New advances are coming rapidly, and gene editing is only becoming easier, faster and cheaper.

Again, that need not be a bad thing. Twentieth century eugenics has rightly been called a “war on the weak” — its goal was to stop people with conditions like Huntington’s disease from reproducing. Twenty-first century eugenics can enable people with the Huntington’s gene to have children without it. The new eugenics can be a war for the weak.

Adam Cohen is the author of “Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck,” which is being published in paperback this month.


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