Hey, Now! Eugenics for Everybody!

This is a way-long posting, but I think it opens a weird can of worms, and I’ve tackled it from a few different points of view. Tangents are fun. So, bear with me.

There’s a disturbing question before the law courts of Britain. A mother is petitioning for the right to surgically remove the womb of her 15-year-old daughter, who is severely disabled with cerebral palsy.

The arguments are along the lines of “well, she’ll never understand the blood and the discomfort” of her period and more or less “we’re doing her a favour”. (I’m paraphrasing, so don’t take me literally.)

This is a particularly freaky law case because I can understand both sides of it. I only agree with one. Guess which?

Now, you wouldn’t think, that as a Canadian, I’d have much scope on the ethical questions entailed when facing the barbaric practice of eugenics, but y’know what? As a Canadian, yeah, I do.

Here in Canada, in the province of Alberta, eugenics were in practice for 43 years. What are eugenics, Steffi? Oh, I’m glad you asked. In big, fat words, “eugenics” means the study of hereditary improvement of the human race by controlled selective breeding, according to the smarty-pants over there at Answers.com.

But in little people layspeak, “eugenics” is when you use science to fuck around with DNA and manipulate unborn babies into what you wanna see… or, in Alberta’s case, “eugenics” means you spend more than 4 decades in the 20th century sterilizing people you don’t think are fit to breed.

What the fuck did she say, Gilbert? You heard me. From 1928 to 1972, the Sexual Sterilization Act of Alberta was a mandate that employed a four-person “Board of Eugenics” (way to cover up your motives, guys) that decided whether or not people were fit to have kids.

In 1972, the Sexual Sterilization Act was repealed, and the Eugenics Board dismantled. During the 43 years of the Eugenics Board, it approved nearly 5,000 individual sterilizations, and 2,832 procedures were actually performed.

Now, don’t worry. Not everyone had to go before the board to get approved to get knocked up or do the knocking, no sir. Only the really obvious ones — you know, like native indians or handicapped people or midgets and stuff. You know. The obvious ones. There was an IQ cut-off point, too. And we all know how valid the IQ test has been deemed to be, all these decades later. They never worked out too well for anyone not, you know, white.

Eugenics sound great when you’re arguing Darwinism and “for the good of all” and “raising the bar” and shit like that, but when little things about personal freedoms and the complicated process of being a parent, and who has the right to become one, come into play, that’s when you can’t leave this shit up to four people on a stupid right-wing board, or some judge in a courtroom to decide.

Rights and freedoms aren’t meant to apply SOME of the time. It’s not a “well, after 6pm you get half-off our personal freedoms -happy hour banquet” type thing. Come on! Freedoms oughta be all you can eat, all day, every day! You’re free 24/7, not because you scored well on your IQ test or yer so white you sunburn in February. C’mon!

There are indeed people completely unfit for breeding, let’s not kid ourselves. Most of ’em a drug addicts, alcoholics, sociopaths, or racists. Most of us, though, have parents who consistently fucked up the mix. Hell, most of our parents would have their asses as grass in this day and age if their parenting methods got leaked to the press. My ever-lovin’ rest-her-soul mother took a log — not a stick, not a branch, not even a 2×4 — a knobby, bark-covered, de-branched (but stumpy) big fucker of a log — to my ass. Half-a-dozen times. Why? I cut across the neighbour’s prize-winning rose garden again. I ain’t ever crossed anyone’s lawn in 2 decades since, not without an invitation, man. I learned my shit. But today my mother would be defending herself against a world that thinks they know better. And that’s the thing — we all think we know better than we usedta did, but the reality is, we’re always gonna know better. Twenty years from now, new light’ll be shed on many of our present-day standards and we’ll think “what the fuck were we thinking?” ‘Cos, you know, what the fuck are we thinking?

But today we’re just talking about a womb, right? Just ONE womb? Preventing this poor, unfortunate, palsied girl from having to sit there bleeding, confused, as her womb cramps up, just further compounding her already-troubled existence?

Why, yes, let’s fix her whole troubled world! Sunshine and rainbows for everyone! And, after lunch, COOKIES! Why, yes, let’s snatch out that womb and make her life so much more the better! Whoo! Face it. The argument of “she won’t understand” what’s happening can apply both ways — maybe she won’t remember what it was like when she didn’t bleed. Maybe “she won’t understand” means asking this question is pointless in the first place. Who are we to decide what life experiences she is better to do without?

Methinks it’s sad she needs to discover the unpleasantries of the monthly female bloodletting, but it’d be far sadder still if this little case wound up being the gateway case to allowing a return of eugenics anywhere in our “civilized” world. After all… if it can happen here, in Canada*, for more than four decades, three of those being AFTER the Nazis, well, it can happen any-bloody-where.

Hell, there are watered-down, spoon-fed varieties of eugenics creeping into our system already. People want having a baby to be like ordering a sweater from Nordstrom. Eyes? Blue. Check. Hair? Sandy– no, strawberry blonde. Check. You may think “Well, it’s my baby. I should be able to choose what it’s like…” but there are a lot of freaky destinations in the road ahead if we go opening that door even a crack.

God knows that me, with my health problems as a kid and my hearing troubles, etc, I never would’ve made the cut. Cute as a button, but definitely packing genetic weaknesses to the nth. I could’ve completely fucked that four-person board up. “Well, hell, she’s as smart as can be! But… there are the other issues. Oh, some days this job is just not as fun as I thought it would be. To mate or not to mate, that is her question.”

You can argue the benefit of eugenics any way you like, and I’ll still say Darwin has it right — let nature sort out shit. We’re bears of far too little brains when it comes to deciding such behemoth issues. And still, there’s that silly Charter of Rights and Freedoms mucking up the mix, too.

Think about it, man. One small womb might be one large backstep for mankind, in more ways than one.

*And, oh, we’re not alone. Sweden, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, and a schwack of other nations have had some dalliances with eugenics of one kind or another. Canada had one of the longest state-sponsored programs, though, a real black mark on us.

The original story is here. A medical ethicist shares his two cents here.