European Eugenics


A new human rights report includes strong evidence that, to this day, Gypsy women in Slovakia are being forcibly sterilized. If the charges pan out, they'll have repercussions far beyond that country, as Slovakia is a member of the European Union.

Europe-bashing being a popular sport in the blogosphere right now, I should add that, as Nick noted here last month, coerced sterilization has an ugly history in the United States as well.

Update: Click on the "comments" link, and you'll learn that Slovakia is not slated to become a member of the European Union for another year. I stand corrected.

NEXT: Talk to the Hand

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  1. Of course, Europe-bashing is in vogue. Why WOULDN’T it be?

    Yup, we have some ugly forced-sterilization issues from past American history, but the key word here is “past”. And fact is, as a general rule (I’m gonna hear it about this one), the U.S. tends to learn from its mistakes. Europeans have been making the same ones for 1000 years.

  2. Slovakia is not yet a member of the European Union. They’ve only completed pre-accession negotiations. I believe they do not become a member until May of 2004. Nevertheless, you’re correct to say it’s going to cause some problems for them if they don’t cease these kinds of practices if they are, in fact, going on.

  3. Sebastian: I’m not sure if May 2004 is the correct month, but you’re definitely right about Slovakia’s membership status right now. I just posted a correction.

  4. “Three Generations of Imbecils are enough” – Buck v. Bell

    The above was a comment made by Justice Holmes in his written decision upholding a state law permitting forced sterilization. There was one dissenter on the court. One.

    Meanwhile, how many generations of European imbecils are enough?

  5. There’s one big distinction between the eugenics in the US (as practiced), and steralizing gypsies in Europe. In the US, as in the Buck v. Bell case, eugenics was aimed at those deemed morally or mentally imperfect, while Gypsies can be considered a separate ethnic group. In effect, Slovakia has a program of ehtnic cleansing, if the allegations are true.

  6. Eugenics in the U.S. were also aimed at racial groups deemed “inferior.” E.g.:

  7. Buck v. Bell did not occur in a political milieu that favored the sterilization only of “mental and moral defectives.” Many elite and “progressive” people advocated the serilization of ethnic minorities along with “morons” and “imbeciles.”

    Margaret Sanger, who founded The Birth Control League — now known as Planned Parenthood — was a fierce eugenicist who favored Nazi racial laws. She was particuarly concerned about the “spawning and swarming” of Eastern Europeans, and blacks.

    Among her mottos were: “More children from the fit, less from the unfit” and “Birth Control: to Create a Race of Thorougbreds.” Sanger advocated giving as much as 50% of the population a choice between sterilization and life in a segregated camp. She published pro-Nazi authors, one of whom was given an award (I think in 1936) by Adolph himself for drafting a model eugenics law.

    The point is, prior to WWII and what came out about the Nazis therafter, racist and eugenic enthusiasms ran quite high in the U.S. and the UK among WASP elites. Justice Holmes’ opinion was quite unexceptional coming from a member of the intellectual class in that era.

  8. Sanger appointed Lothrap Stoddard to her Board of Directors, and frequently published him. Stoddard met with Adolf Hitler. William L. Shirer complained that the Reich minister for propaganda — Joseph Goebbels — gave special preference to Stoddard because his writings on racial subject were “featured in Nazi school textbooks.” Stoddard claimed in 1940 that the “Jew problem” is “already settled in principle and soon to be settled in fact by the physical elimination of the Jews themselves from the Third Reich.” Stoddard’s book, The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy, was written while he served on Sanger’s board. Co-founder of Planned Parenthood, and board member, C. C. Little, was president of the Third Race Betterment Conference, and he advocated preserving the purity of “Yankee stock” through limiting the births of non-Whites. Sanger herself wrote of the “menace” posed by Eastern Europeans, and thought the “human weeds” came from them disproportionately. In six successive issues of her Birth Control Review, she advocated limiting the racial quotas of immigration of “Slavs, Hebrews, and Latins,” claiming they were of lower intelligence.

    She wrote: “The first step would thus be to control the intake and output of morons, mental defectives, epileptics.The second step would be to take an inventory of the secondary group such as illiterates, paupers, unemployables, criminals, prostitutes, dope-fiends; classify them in special departments under government medical protection, and segregate them on farms and open spaces as long as necessary for the strengthening and development of moral conduct….With the future citizen safeguarded from hereditary taints, with five million mental and moral degenerates segregated, with ten million women and ten million children receiving adequate care, we could then turn our attention to the basic needs for international peace….Sanger, “A Plan for Peace,” Birth Control Review, April 1932, pp. 106-107

    Sanger’s books are in the public domain and available online to anyone who does the indicated search. Read for yourself these two:

    The Pivot of Civilization
    Woman and the New Race

  9. These lies of Margaret Sanger were first introduced in the 80’s by people who wished to discredit Planned Parenthood, and were against reproductive rights.
    The Planned Parent Hood website sites facts disputing the claims Margaret Sanger being a nazi-sympathieser a eugenicist.

    “More children from the fit, less from the unfit ? that is the chief issue in birth control.”
    A quotation falsely attributed to Margaret Sanger, this statement was made by the editors of American Medicine in a review of an article by Sanger. The editorial from which this appeared, as well as Sanger’s article, “Why Not Birth Control Clinics in America?” (1919b), were reprinted side-by-side in the May 1919 Birth Control Review.

    “To create a race of thoroughbreds. . .”
    This remark, again attributed originally to Sanger, was made by Dr. Edward A. Kempf and has been cited out of context and with distorted meaning. Dr. Kempf, a progressive physician, was actually arguing for state endowment of maternal and infant care clinics. In her book The Pivot of Civilization, Sanger quoted Dr. Kempf’s argument about how environment may improve human excellence:

    “Society must make life worth the living and the refining for the individual by conditioning him to love and to seek the love-object in a manner that reflects a constructive effect upon his fellow-men and by giving him suitable opportunities. The virility of the automatic apparatus is destroyed by excessive gormandizing or hunger, by excessive wealth or poverty, by excessive work or idleness, by sexual abuse or intolerant prudishness. The noblest and most difficult art of all is the raising of human thoroughbreds (1969).”

    It was in this spirit that Sanger used the phrase, “Birth Control: To Create a Race of Thoroughbreds,” as a banner on the November 1921 issue of the Birth Control Review. (Differing slogans on the theme of voluntary family planning sometimes appeared under the title of The Review, e.g., “Dedicated to the Cause of Voluntary Motherhood,” January 1928.)

  10. I was a little skeptical that she was a Nazi, but Heather, does the line that you quote from her sound reasonable to you? She wants society to condition us to reflect a constructive effect.
    Apparently how much I eat, how much I earn, how much I work and how much I screw are all aspects that she wants society to control. And doesn’t “thoroughbred” conotate lineage and genetics and NOT environment and nuturing?

  11. But the Romany are despised all over Europe. Up until the 70s, Switzerland was taking kids away from their parents and sending them to re-education camps, i.e. schools.
    There’s little to admire in Maragret Sanger.

  12. Heather — I read Margaret Sanger’s books and checked the quotes cited in some of the anti-Planned Parenthood information my socially conservative mother gave me, a project I undertook from no small amount of skepticism. It all checked out. Sanger did, in fact, write some awful stuff, and did, in fact, adopt both of the mottos I cited.

    How people employ this information with regard to the contemporary Planned Parenthood is one thing, and you and I might agree on what is or is not fair use of such history. But the fact remains that the history of Sanger and PP’s birth includes a very unsavory eugenics agenda and inhuman language; this is unassailable as a matter of a written record anyone may consult. I would suggest starting with Sanger’s books, but much of the truly awful stuff is contained in her periodical, the Birth Control Review. I could not track those down, but I have never seen the citations cited to there to be refuted, and they are consistent with the wrtings I did access.

  13. Harry Tuttle: I would agree that Sanger’s desire for social control of the individual is noxious, but that doesn’t make her a Nazi or Nazi-sympathizer or eugenicist. Regarding the use of the word “thoroughbred”, it may have been a misuse of the word or an ironic use, i.e. that we can attain the desired results of a healthy people through a good environment.

    Anyway, ideas are like viruses, they spread till they’re starved for support or beaten back. Apparently eugenics had a fair amount of support in the U.S. before the Nazis became our enemies, but thankfully that’s not the case now.

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