Saturday, November 22, 2008

Eugenics and other Evils

A draft law is being considered in The Netherlands that would punish 'unfit' parents by forcing women to use contraception for a number of years and taking the baby away as soon as it was born if the woman refused the order to take contraception and became pregnant.

Khaled Diab in The Guardian, voices disquiet at the proposed law, warning:

This government may have all the best intentions, but what's to guarantee that a future government doesn't use the law, or an amendment of it, to target "undesirable" groups, such as Roma, gays, religious minorities and immigrants?

More immediately, there's the question of how we would define the "unfit parents" who should be deprived from the right to bear children. Should the law apply only to parents who pose a clear and present danger to potential offspring or could it be more loosely interpreted to apply to those of whose parenting style the state disapproves?

As numerous commentators at the end of the article point out, this is essentially just another piece of legislation stemming from the eugenicist ideology so popular during the Interwar period, which was of course promoted by the likes of Marie Stopes and Margaret Sanger. Others quote the number of European countries and US states that had eugenicist laws in place until the early 70s, which involved the compulsory sterilisation of those regarded as mentally and physically unfit, along with some racial minorities.

An article in Second Spring analyses the work of G.K. Chesterton in campaigning against and defeating the Mental Deficiency Bill in 1912. Chesterton was one of the only vocal and influential opponents of eugenics at a time when eugenics was being publicly embraced and promoted by England's liberal intelligentsia.

As the horrors of past eugenics programmes fade in memory and this evil ideology once again takes hold of society, we need another G.K. Chesterton to sound the alarm.