In a world of blog posts and hat tips, there is still a pro-life journal that publishes on paper with copious footnotes. The Human Life Review, published by the Human Life Foundation, is a resource that no pro-lifer should be without.
I say this as a person who hates having paper journals around. And some years ago I did give my back issues of HLR to the local Catholic Information Center.
But the truth is that HLR remains an excellent and sometimes appallingly informative resource. In the most recent issue to come out (Fall, 2009), the journal contains two articles on disabilities and eugenics that are hair curling. I had not realized until I read Mark P. Mostert's "Eugenic Death-Making and the Disabled" just how blatant doctors and others were a century ago about killing the disabled. Alfred Nobel, for example, said of himself that he was a "pitiful creature [who] ought to have been suffocated by a humane physician when he made his howling entrance into this life." One Sigmund Engel in Hungary argued that "cripples, high-grade cretins, idiots, and children with gross deformities...should be quickly and painlessly destroyed [when] medical science indicates...that it is impossible for them ever to become useful members of society..." In 1915, Dr. Harry Haiselden made big-time propaganda out of refusing to treat disabled children and letting them die, beginning with baby Allan Bollinger, who died over a period of five days of a blocked bowel. When a family friend pled with Haiselden to operate and save Allan, Haiselden laughed and said no: "I'm afraid it might get well." When asked if his decision was eugenic, he said, "Of course it was eugenic." Haiselden thereafter gave press interviews and displayed dying "defective" babies to reporters.
It is mildly interesting to me that during the succeeding century we should once more have become rather squeamish about this sort of thing. Peter Singer is, of course, notorious for recommending active eugenic infanticide, but it's not as though society in general would be likely to appreciate news stories displaying dying Down's Syndrome babies who needed only minor surgery to survive.
It seems to me that we have gone through a revulsion of feeling on this subject, so that it is only now that infanticide and deliberate, open eugenics are once more beginning to become acceptable. Only in one area have they been acceptable all along--in the area of abortion.
In another article in the same issue of HLR, we hear of what mothers face who choose not to abort their disabled children. One mother tells of playing at the park with her Down Syndrome little girl and hearing a nearby mother, a complete stranger, saying to her companion, "Isn't it a shame that everyone doesn't get amnio?"
What we can do with all this information is something I'm not entirely sure about, but I believe that we need to have the information. Realizing the blatancy of eugenics in the past and the comeback it is making, starting with eugenic abortion, may help us to sound an alarm. It also tells us--if we did not already know--the depths to which ostensibly civilized people can fall. When Dr. Haiselden began his publicity campaign for eugenic non-treatment, he was actually contacted by parents asking him actively to kill their children. Said one father of a child with a misshapen mouth and jaw, "Unless someone does kill the baby, I'll have to."
It is salutary to realize that under the veneer of civilization, hatred and revulsion for the disabled remain part of fallen human nature, ready to spring out and take advantage of whatever social approval they are given.
Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom--and humanity.
HLR can help in keeping that vigilance well-informed.
Update: Dr. Mostert has sent me two additional links in an e-mail. These may be of interest to readers. Here is his article in American Thinker on prenatal screening as the new eugenics. Here is his blog, Alive and Kicking.