>From 1935 until 1976, the democratic socialist government in Sweden
sterilized 60,000 women to rid society of the "inferior," those with learning difficulties who were from "poor or mixed racial quality" not of Nordic stock. Although the sterilization was called voluntary, victims reported that they were forced to agree or risk losing other children and benefits. The Swedish government's rationale was doublefold, to improve the racial stock and to save the costs of providing welfare.
Following this revelation about eugenic history, the Finns confessed to sterilizing 11,000 people and to performing 4,000 involuntary abortions between 1945 and 1970. The Danes admitted to having eugenic laws in effect before the Nazis through 1967 and to the sterilization of about 11,000, more than half against their will. The Swiss conceded to compulsory sterilization of the mentally handicapped until the 1970s. While these nations condemned their past actions, Japan, which had eugenics laws on the books until 1996, allowing doctors to sterilize 16,000 physically and mentally disabled women without their consent, offered no apologies for its laws or actions.
> The most important point seems to be this however:if abortion
> were freely available--which black nationalists fight with
> counterproductive effect, to say nothing of the assault on women's
> autonomy--poor and poor minority women may not decide to sterilize
> themselves at as high rates as presently.
I am a woman and I do believe in choice. However, in America, a kind of backdoor "eugenics" is practiced through selective abortion. Prenatal screening has become a search and destroy mission where fetuses are aborted if they have any "defect", by far the greatest number of these are Down Syndrome. People now abort if the fetus they carry is the "wrong" sex. Few are talking about this but there is such an overwhelming cultural bias towards having "perfect" babies or getting the baby that they want that when we talk about abortion we need to expand the discussion as to exactly what kind of choice is being made here? When disabled babies are seen as "damaged goods," has consumerism entered into the decision making process? When health care insurance companies deny coverage for infants with disabilities are we being socially manipulated to make the choice to abort? Just what assumptions are being made about choice?
Bioethicist Adrienne Asch accepts abortion for conditions which would cause death within months or the first year or two, but points to the fact that most disabilities entail a wide range, variety, and unpredictability of what life will be like and cannot be dismissed without interfering with that potential life's possibilities. Asch supports a woman's legal right to choose but offers moral guideposts as to how to make that choice:
"Selective abortion differs from the decision to end a pregnancy because one's adult life has radically changed in that it is a statement not about the adult but about the value assigned to potential life that has characteristics we dislike. Aborting because of our own lives says something very different than aborting because we don't like what we find out about the potential life we carry. Support for women's equality with men should not be obtained by subverting other people's equality or potentiality - people with disabilities, or people of a certain sex - by the message we give of the rightness of selective abortion."
To get back to your opening remark about developmentally disabled and eugenics- In the U.S., advocates of people who are developmentally disabled(DD) have been so upset over recent trends that they have passed laws in 11 states saying that one cannot kill a person who is DD.
There are many more complexities which email is insufficient to allow me to get into but I have presented more of them in my book, Beyond Ramps.
> As compared to other forms of birth control available to women after they
> have finished their child-bearing years, I don't also don't know the
> comparative safety of sterilization, though I was surpised to learn of the
> many health risks which seem to follow upon sterilization, tubal
> ligations, and vasectomies. It seems disturbing then that sterilization
> has become the most popular form of birth control.
> best, rakesh
> ps. please direct me to all relevant readings you have done. A lot of what
> I have written here is conjecture.