"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.
Eugenics reeks of rotten ideas long-ago consigned to the dustbin of history; even Marie Stopes International has rebranded itself ‘MSI Reproductive Choices’ – while still pursuing the same aims.1
A century ago, however, Sir Francis Galton’s ‘eugenics’ was the latest thing, until the infamous Nazi extermination programme raised a stink, hence the Eugenics Society’s embrace of ‘crypto-eugenics’ in the 1960s – same aims, achieved through ‘family planning’.2
The Sexual Revolution, sparked by eugenicist Margaret Sanger’s contraceptive pill,3 was the most successful eugenics ‘front’. It projected a Darwinian view of Man as ‘just another animal’ acting on sexual instinct, but ‘sexual freedom’ was a trap: those who cannot control themselves must be controlled – just like animals.4 Commitment-free relationships demand contraception and abortion, with the answer to repeat abortion, long-term contraception or sterilisation.5 The Sexual Revolution – its biggest cheerleader, pornographer Hugh Hefner6 – literally helped fund population control in Stopes’s name.7
Against a background of ‘overpopulation’ propaganda, births declined, but the increase in absolute numbers – caused by greater longevity, not ‘too many babies’ – boosted demand for euthanasia, the other arm of the Malthusian pincer movement.
With population control dealing with quantity – abortion is the leading cause of death worldwide8 – ‘quality’ is addressed by pre-implantation diagnosis to screen out ‘defective’ embryos,9 or by pre-natal tests and abortion, ‘the simplest of eugenic techniques’.10
Many couples are pressured into ‘choosing’ abortion, notably for Down syndrome, despite unreliable tests11 – a ‘search and destroy’ approach termed ‘genocide’ by one UN panel;12 however, the development was foreseen by psychiatrist C. P. Blacker, Eugenics Society secretary from 1931 to 1952, co-founder, with Sanger, of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, and first chairman of the Simon Population Trust; he called it the ‘eugenics consciousness’.13
My book Prophets and Priests exposed the contraception campaign as the militant wing of the eugenics movement;14 the ‘feminist’ Stopes saw it as a racial duty to curb the fertility of poor women, and like other prominent ‘family planners’15 she condemned abortion while discreetly referring women for it.16 However, supporting abortion while claiming that contraception would prevent it would have raised suspicions.
Stopes’s idea of the ‘wanted child’ led to the unwanted child; failed contraception led to abortion; but the feminist narrative of women wresting reproductive control from the iron grip of Church and State has so influenced public perceptions that they cannot imagine a time when family limitation was regarded as selfish and abortion as murder.
Thanks largely to popular fiction taken as fact, many now believe that before legalisation huge numbers of babies were secretly aborted;17 but in the 1950s Halliday Sutherland wrote about help for unwed expectant mothers,18 and more recent retrospective tales about cruel orphanages and ‘forced adoptions’ inadvertently clash with claims of mass illegal abortion – even while functioning as a warning against overturning the law.19
By Their Fruits, my history of the abortion campaign, revealed its eugenics origins in the 1930s; the Abortion Act of 1967 owed nothing to feminism, but abortions rocketed, and 1970s attempts at restriction met with feminist opposition, even though legalisation unleashed male sexism, fulfilling the early (pro-life) feminist prophecy that devaluing the miracle of unborn life would devalue the lives of women.20
My family history contradicts feminist claims of ‘forced childbearing’, but also eugenicist assumptions: East End slum-dwellers during Stopes’s era, they were the sort of people she would have sterilised. My father’s family ended up in the workhouse, where his little sister died. My maternal grandmother suffered three stillbirths, and the eldest of her seven surviving children was killed on his first day at work (his 14th birthday); however, to the middle-class fertility controllers the fact that poor women saw such losses as a sorrow rather than a blessing was further proof of their ‘mental unfitness’, for what poor person ‘in their right mind’ would want children?
While children benefited from the solidarity of siblings,21 eugenicists feared the poor would ‘outbreed’ the wealthy, and Stopes succeeded in associating large families with squalor, ignorance and mentally inferior offspring. This prejudiced picture is contradicted by the number of university graduates in my own family, but the rise of the ‘Malthusian family’ only strengthened the ‘eugenics consciousness’: focussing their anxieties on one or two children, parents believed that having three or four would multiply the nightmare. From being seen as gifts from God, children became commodities fulfilling the needs of parents – at best, a private hobby, at worst, mere self-indulgence.22 Having fewer children was selfless, not selfish; and in the ‘green’ religion it is sinless to be childless.23
A century ago, G. K. Chesterton, one of very few critics, saw eugenics as the latest fad,24 but left-wing Fabians Beatrice and Sidney Webb, George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells embraced it for that very reason: as with evolution, the latest idea was always the best.
Now, radicals condemn eugenics and population control and embrace diversity while demanding fertility control as the prerequisite of liberty, even though it impacts most heavily on the poor/non-white.25 Recently, US abortion restrictions were criticised for hitting the poor hardest,26 while in the UK, dragooning ‘economically inactive’ women into the workforce as an ‘equality measure’ helps further the population lobby’s agenda by curbing births.27
Still the fertility industry is hugely profitable,28 although in encouraging women to postpone childbearing, it functions as a self-serving ‘infertility industry’.29 But the ‘quality control’ aspect of ante-natal testing and polygenic scoring of embryos30 fulfils Stopes’s vision of the ‘wanted child’, while millions of ‘unwanted’ unborn babies who might actually be wanted by childless couples are discarded like rubbish – to silence from the ‘green’ lobby, naturally.31
Abortion was supposed to eliminate the problem of orphanages full of ‘unwanted children’, but the numbers in state ‘care’ have rocketed.32
If Malthusianism and eugenics reek of corruption it is not because they are dead but because of all the death they have caused. The ideology of Malthus, Galton, Blacker, Sanger and Stopes serves the interests of the rich, the powerful and the prejudiced; and it is very much alive and killing.
2 A.S. Parkes, ‘Aims and Activities of the Eugenics Society’, Eugenics Review, 1968, in O’Keefe, Eugenics or Democracy, (n.d.), p.29); ‘Summary of chief Grants made by The Eugenics Society since 1945’ (SA/EUG)).
3 See: A. Franks, Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy: The Control of Female Fertility (Jefferson, N. Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2005).
4 “As a rule the slave-owner has no reason to meddle with the private erotic affairs of his slaves, so long as his proprietorship in the offspring is assured. Free love is for slaves, and marriage is for the free born” (Sigrid Undset, ‘Letter to a Parish Priest’, in Stages on the Road (1935)). https://www.amazon.com/Stages-Road-Sigrid-Undset/dp/0870612581
5 In response to a question from Fiona Bruce MP, the Department of Health and Social Care Government replied: ‘The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends that increased uptake of long acting reversible contraception should reduce unintended pregnancy rates and prevent significant numbers of repeat abortions. Any woman having an abortion by a provider commissioned by the National Health Service should be given advice about contraception before they leave the clinic’ (Written answer UIN 2373, June 23, 2015). https://members.parliament.uk/member/3958/writtenquestions?page=42#expand-381159
6 Hefner’s Playboy foundation, established in 1965, “funds projects that promote unrestricted abortion rights” and “favours unrestricted taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand for any reason whatsoever, even during the ninth month of pregnancy” (http://www.discoverthenetwork.org/ at 12 April, 2005).
10 While condemning Nazi and other historical eugenics programmes, David Galton, a prominent member of the Eugenics Society’s successor body The Galton Institute, has called abortion “the simplest of eugenic techniques” (D. Galton, In Our Own Image: Eugenics and the Genetic Modification of People (London: Little, Brown & Company, 2001), pp. 188-189), seeing the future of eugenics as being driven by individual choice (Ibid, p. 96).
13 Letter, C.P. Blacker to Karl Pearson, 2.7.1931, SA/EUG/C268.
16 R. Hall, ‘Marie Stopes and her correspondents: Personalising population decline in an era of demographic change’, in R. A. Peel (Ed.), Marie Stopes, Eugenics and the English Birth Control Movement: Proceedings of a Conference organised by the Galton Institute (London: The Galton Institute, 1997), p. 41.
24 Eugenics and Other Evils (1922) https://www.chesterton.org/gilbert/a-century-of-other-evils/?mc_cid=b20f27f4c1&mc_eid=3865360aa6&__cf_chl_f_tk=IM43ZTI0iqCXQ4aQqsKY35aVKFumzbxp5_Rb1wc3Pks-1642543908-0-gaNycGzNCSU