Halliday Sutherland

"A born writer, especially a born story-teller. Dr. Sutherland, who is distinguished in medicine, is an amateur in the sense that he only writes when he has nothing better to do. But when he does, it could hardly be done better." G.K. Chesterton.

Changing a name doesn’t change the facts

Abortion charity Marie Stopes International (MSI) yesterday announced that it had changed its name to “MSI Reproductive Choices” . Media headlines included: “Abortion charity Marie Stopes changes its name to distance itself from links to eugenics and Nazis” (Daily Mail); “Marie Stopes charity changes name in break with campaigner’s view on eugenics” (The Guardian); “Abortion charity drops Marie Stopes name due to links with eugenics and racism” (Daily Telegraph) and “Abortion provider changes name over Marie Stopes eugenics link” (BBC).

The Daily Telegraph cited Simon Cooke, CEO of MSI Reproductive Choices as saying:

… it was increasingly “proving difficult for us to explain [that Dr Stopes] was not our founder and these views were not our views.”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/women-and-girls/abortion-charity-drops-marie-stopes-name-due-links-eugenics/ viewed 18 November 2020

Also, according to the report, fundraising teams “… found that the link tarnished the brand and put off supporters, while staff members were “uncomfortable” with the association.”

When I read the articles, I was reminded of the British impresario whose wife found out about his mistress. His wife’s tears drove pangs of guilt deep into his heart and her anger tempered his resolve that never would he err again. Solemnly, he promised that he would never see Shirley (or whatever her name was) ever again.

So a few weeks later, at his next encounter with Shirley, he gazed into her eyes with serious intent: “I’m going to be calling you Ethel from now on,” he said.

“Why’s that?” she asked.

“Because I promised I wouldn’t see Shirley anymore.”

Let me explain…

The reports that suggest Stopes’ name has been dropped, or that MSI Reproductive Choices is breaking its association with her, are wide of the mark. Instead, her name has been rendered less conspicuous than before. Presumably, potential donors won’t ask what the “MS” of MSI Reproductive Choices stands for. And here’s a tip for newly-hired staff sitting through the induction course — don’t ask. (You’re welcome!)

Secondly, there is continuity between the organisation founded by Dr. Tim Black and the eugenic beliefs of Stopes’ era, because the radical sympathy lived loudly in Dr. Black.

Again, let me explain…

Havelock Ellis (eugenist, friend and associate of Dr. Marie Stopes) explained the radical sympathy of eugenics in his 1912 book, The Task of Social Hygiene:

“The superficially sympathetic man flings a coin to the beggar; the more deeply sympathetic man builds an alms-house for him so that he need no longer beg; but perhaps the most radically sympathetic of all is the man who arranges that the beggar shall not be born.”

The Task of Social Hygiene (1912). Havelock Ellis. Page 401.

Now compare this to the epiphany that led Dr. Black to become a birth controller:

“In the late 1960s, Tim Black was working as a district health officer in the Sepik district of New Guinea, and it was around that time that he began to reassess his focus on trying to cure or save lives as a matter of course. After saving the life of a three-month old girl, he was shocked that her widowed mother — who already had five children and no steady income — didn’t want her to survive.

“‘My shock was absolute. My immediate reaction was one of utter indignation. The gulf separating my life experience and that of this poor woman was complete. She had wanted the baby to die — not live — during the operation.

“‘I suddenly realised that I had presented her, not only with her baby, but with another mouth to feed, another dependent human being to whom she could offer nothing: no father, no education, no future.

“‘It was at that point that I began to realise that preventing a birth could be as important as saving a life.’”

Marie Stopes International “About Us” page as at 9th May 2020

Though separated by many decades, Black and Ellis made essentially the same point. Arguably though, Dr. Black was the more “radically sympathetic” of the two, having exported British eugenics to the world.

Plus ça change…

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

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This entry was posted on 18 November 2020 by in "Exterminating Poverty" Book, Eugenics, Malthusianism.

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