Call to Sterilize the "Unfit"

Plea Made on Pretext of Child Protection

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By Father John Flynn, LC

ROME, SEPT. 5, 2010 ( A British sociologist recently argued that «unfit» people should be sterilized as they are not capable of bringing up children in a responsible way. 

Professor David Marsland, who holds academic positions at Brunel University, London, and the University of Buckingham, made his comments Aug. 26 on the BBC Radio 4 series Iconoclasts. The program is presented as a place to «think the unthinkable.»

According to Marsland, the unfit include drug addicts, alcoholics and people with psychological problems. They should be permanently sterilized as a way to prevent child neglect and abuse, he stated.

When people have such conditions, and when those conditions persist even after treatment over a period of five years, then the abuse of children is likely, he affirmed, adding that the only solution is to sterilize those individuals.

«Perpetrators should be prevented from producing any more children and from multiplying their victims,» he said.

After an initial presentation of his position he participated in a debate with a panel of commentators, which was made up of social workers and other professionals who were very critical of his proposals.

Nevertheless, when at the end of the 45-minute program he was asked if anything he had heard had made him change his ideas, he replied in the negative, saying he was more convinced than he was in the beginning.

«And we’re not short of people, so we don’t need to use this right (the right to have children), even if it is a right, we’ve got rather too many people,» he concluded.

Marsland is not alone in proposing such a drastic course of action, although in the past it has mainly been proposed for those addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Sterilized for cash

In 1997, a program called Project Prevention was established by Barbara Harris in the United States. They give addicts $300 if they agree to use long-term contraception or to be sterilized.

According to their Web site, they are going international and two staff members will be visiting the United Kingdom in late September to work on a documentary and to visit agencies.

An article published April 17 on the Web site took a look at the work of Project Prevention. It said that so far the organization has worked with 3,371 addicts in the United States. Of these,1,253 accepted sterilization, while the others opted for contraception.

The article also reported on criticism of the move to the United Kingdom. «Their practices are morally reprehensible and irrelevant,» said Simon Antrobus, chief executive of Addaction, a London-based drug and alcohol treatment agency.

A U.S. group, National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), accused Harris of spreading «dangerous propaganda,» the BBC reported Feb. 8.

According to the report, NAPW argued that Harris is engaged in social engineering, defining a category of people as unfit to have children. In fact, her critics have compared what Harris is doing to the Nazi program of eugenics, which not only set out to exterminate the Jews, but also saw the murder of many gypsies and the mentally ill.

A trip made by Harris to the United Kingdom in May to promote her work sparked further negative reaction. One woman in Scotland complained to the police after she was approached by representatives of Project Prevention, the BBC reported May 23.

As Deborah Wilson was leaving a health clinic, she was offered 200 pounds ($309) if she would agree to be sterilized. The woman said she is not a drug addict and was simply coming out of the clinic after a visit to her doctor. She also complained that she was with her 9-year-old son at the time, and they should not have raised such an issue in front of him.

Such trenchant criticism has done nothing to deter Harris. According to an article on her work published June 12 by the British newspaper the Guardian, Project Prevention is planning to start working in Haiti.

«We’re going to offer ‘depo’ injections every three months to women in exchange for food cards,» Harris told the Guardian. «Depo» refers to Depo-Provera hormonal injections that are used as a method of contraception.


It’s not just addicts or the mentally ill who are being targeted. Shortly before the radio broadcast of Marsland’s arguments, a judge in the United Kingdom ruled against a local council in their attempt to have a woman with a low I.Q. sterilized.

The plan was for the police to take the married woman (who cannot be named) from her home, and then have her sedated and sterilized against her will, the Telegraph newspaper reported Aug. 18.

Justice Bodey agreed that she lacked the mental capacity to make important decisions about her medical treatment. He stated, however, that the plan to stop the 29-year-old from having children «would raise profound questions about state intervention in private and family life.»

Earlier this year, a tribunal in Australia took the opposite view. The Family Court gave the go-ahead to the parents of an 11-year-old profoundly disabled daughter, Angela, to have a hysterectomy performed on her, the Australian newspaper reported March 9.

«It is only ever the disabled girls,» said Carolyn Frohmader, chief executive of Women with a Disability Australia. Her organization has lobbied for years for a ban on the sterilization of disabled children.

«When you go through the cases, there is never a boy, no matter how intellectually disabled, who has to be sterilized,» she pointed out.

Her parents believe that their daughter’s periods trigger epileptic fits and want the hysterectomy to lessen her distress.


While some of these demands for sterilization might seem the views of a small group of extremists, they are merely the logical extension of a eugenic mentality that has been rapidly spreading in recent years.

An example of this is what happens when expectant mothers test positive for a baby with Down syndrome. Recent figures from the Australian state of Victoria show that the number of women who terminate their pregnancies after discovering their babies have Down syndrome has almost tripled in a decade.

According to an article published July 22, 2006, in the Herald Sun newspaper, there were 146 terminations, including five that were late term, for Down syndrome, compared with 54 in 1995. Twice as many babies with Down syndrome were aborted than were born with the condition.

The previous day the newspaper had reported that two Victorian couples are suing doctors for failing to diagnose Down syndrome in their unborn babies, denying them the chance to have an abortion.

The flip side to this is the desire to have children that are more intelligent or beautiful. William Saletan, in a commentary published March 29 by the Web site Slate, reflected on the findings of a survey by the New York University.

It revealed that 10%-13% percent of patients seeking genetic counseling said they would screen embryos to select height, intelligence, or athletic ability. «That’s the number who admit they’d do it,» he added.

Saletan also cited an analysis by Aaron Levine, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Levine looked at ads from college newspapers seeking donor eggs for IVF treatments. A significant number offered more money to women more likely to have smarter or more attractive kids, based on the donor’s academic records and personal appearance.

Since then news has come out about a Denmark-based dating group called Beautiful People that is now offering a fertility service. Members of the group, who are only accepted if deemed to be sufficiently attractive, will now offer their sperm and eggs for less attractive people to buy in the hope of producing better offspring.

Once conviction in the innate dignity of the human person is lost it is just a small step from wantin
g a more intelligent child to forcible sterilization of the «unfit.»

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