Eugenics is over…right?

Logan Paul Gage

Not so fast, say disabilities advocates Andrew J. Imparato and Anne C. Sommers of the American Association of People With Disabilities. In their Washington Post article, “Haunting Echoes of Eugenics,” the two authors describe, among other things, the terrible campaign to eliminate persons with Down syndrome before they ever arrive.

According to Imparato and Sommers, fully “85% of pregnancies diagnosed with Down syndrome end in abortion.”
As I have written earlier, this year marks 100 years since Indiana passed the world’s first forced sterilization law. Like Mike Egnor yesterday, Imparato and Sommers note that it is also 80 years since “the disgraceful Supreme Court decision in Buck v. Bell” where Justice Holmes wrote:

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 . . . Three generations of imbeciles is enough.

But apparently instead of sterilizing the unfit, us 100-year more civilized folk now kill them.
Incidentally, last week in the Senate I heard parents from the Down Syndrome Association of Northern Virginia (DSANV) speak about their experiences. They are supporting the Prenatally Diagnosed Condition Awareness Act. Each one spoke of how difficult it was not to have support and information from their doctors but rather a speech about “you have a choice to make.”
Unfortunately, Imparato and Sommers do not mention where Holmes–an avid Darwinist–got his “unfit” language. But hopefully the message came across in their conclusion:

On this 80th anniversary of Buck, let’s not foolishly believe that victims of eugenics are an artifact of history. So long as we speak in terms of good genes and bad genes, recognize a life with a disability as an injury, and allow health policies to value some lives over others, we continue to create human rights violations every day.

Logan Paul Gage

Logan Paul Gage is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Dr. Gage received his B.A. in history, philosophy, and American studies from Whitworth College (2004) and his M.A. (2011) and Ph.D. (2014) in philosophy from Baylor University. His dissertation, written under the supervision of Trent Dougherty, was a defense of the phenomenal conception of evidence and conservative principles in epistemology.