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.

“All is Beauty”

Screen-shot from All is Beauty.

The eugenists and the Malthusians continue their work today at the speed of science. They are opposed by those who prize the natural freedom of humanity.

In the context of the Stopes v. Sutherland libel trial, the ideas of the population controllers were manifested in Malthusianism, Neo-Malthusianism, eugenics, contraceptives, voluntary sterilization, compulsory sterilization of the (so-called) “unfit”, infanticide and the lethal chamber. These have today expanded to include full-term abortion, eutelegenesis, genetic screening, transhumanism and euthanasia. Infanticide remains a work in progress.

Here are three examples that show the continuity between then and now:

In 1912 Havelock Ellis observed:

“The superficially sympathetic man flings a coin to the beggar; the more deeply sympathetic man builds an almshouse 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,

Compare this to the story of the event that led Dr Tim Black to become a population 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.’”

From https://mariestopes.org/about-us/our-history viewed October 30, 2019.

Ellis and Black expressed the same idea. In 1975, Dr Black founded Marie Stopes International which today (as MSI Reproductive Choices) provides abortion and contraception in over thirty countries. Its work is significant: in 2018 it reported it had facilitated 4.7 million abortions (albeit expressing disappointment that it had underperformed its target of five million).

Binding and Hoche’s Die Freigabe der Vernichtung Lebensunwerten Lebens was published in 1920. The title in English is Permitting the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Life which explains why it became the philosophical basis for the Nazi Aktion T4 program in which so-called “useless eaters” were murdered. After the war, Binding and Hoche claimed their work was a thought experiment — they never intended for it to be implemented.

In 2012 Giubilini and Minerva’s After-birth abortion: why should the baby live? was published in the British Medical Journal. The controversy of the article surprised the authors who said they:

“… never meant to suggest that after-birth abortion should become legal. This was not made clear enough in the paper.  Laws are not just about rational ethical arguments, because there are many practical, emotional, social aspects that are relevant in policy making (such as respecting the plurality of ethical views, people’s emotional reactions etc). But we are not policy makers, we are philosophers, and we deal with concepts, not with legal policy.”

Quoted in the Washington Post March 5, 2012.

In the 1930s George Bernard Shaw gave his views of someone’s rights in a modern state:

A contemporary update is given in Canada’s All is Beauty advertisement promoting euthanasia.

These examples show not only the persistence of Malthusian and eugenic ideas, but they also reveal that, if there have been changes, these relate to style rather than substance. Yes, voluntary euthanasia is not exactly the same as forcible killing but, in an age in which government health budgets are stretched by aging populations, if you think you are going to have a choice I would suggest that you are (at best) naive.

Of course, Malthusians and eugenicists want to distance themselves from the horrors of Aktion T4. And who can blame them? Killing the poor and the sick and disposing of their bodies is unpleasant work. But that is not the point: the point is that while stylistic changes have been made, the agenda remains the substantially the same.

The changes of style include the fact that the eugenicists and Malthusians encountered by Dr Sutherland expressed their ideas clearly and plainly, whereas their successors cloak their aims in feel-good wokery. In contrast to these changes, Dr Sutherland’s arguments opposing them are still relevant today and that is perhaps why his contribution has been relegated to a misleading “Catholics against contraceptives” schema.

As I wrote in Exterminating Poverty: The true story of the eugenic plan to get rid of the poor, and the Scottish doctor who fought against it:

It is vitally important that these events become widely known because, contrary to the popular impression that eugenics stopped after 1945, it is still with us today. The fact is that eugenics never really went away, so much as to undergo a makeover and assume a new disguise.

The harsh words of the eugenists of one-hundred years ago (for instance, Stopes’ reference to “an imbecile or monster or degenerate or diseased child” in the High Court) have been replaced with the innocuous language of medicine (for instance, the Nuchal Translucency Procedure for Down Syndrome). While the language has changed, the moral issues have not.

We would do well to remember the words of Dr Halliday Sutherland in Birth Control: “Moral catastrophes inevitably lead to physical catastrophes.”

Mark H. Sutherland
Curator, hallidaysutherland.com

One comment on ““All is Beauty”

  1. Pingback: Centenary of the Stopes v Sutherland libel trial - Halliday Sutherland

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


This entry was posted on 3 March 2023 by in Abortion, Eugenics, Euthanasia.

Stopes v Sutherland libel trial 1922-24

Centenary of the House of Lords judgment21 November 2024
13 months to go.

E-mail notification

Receive an e-mail when announcements are made.

%d bloggers like this: