Do you believe ALL life is sacred? We have learned all too well the consequences of when societies quantify the sanctity of human beings on physical characteristics... or have we?
Glenn recently interviewed Scott Schara, who tragically lost his daughter, Grace, with Down syndrome, to alleged medical malpractice. What was the malpractice? After Schara and his wife took Grace to the hospital when her oxygen levels dropped due to contracting COVID, her doctors and nurses gave her a deadly cocktail and a "do not resuscitate" order WITHOUT her parents' consent. Schara alleged Grace's doctors didn't deem his daughter's life "worth saving" because she had Down syndrome—and allegedly expedited her death.
Glenn recently said, we are becoming a "culture of death" as our society is dangerously edging closer to the mistakes of the past. From New Mexico's law requiring ALL doctors to offer assisted suicide to Canada's expansion of euthanasia laws to include mentally ill and handicapped patients, it is harrowingly clear we are close to repeating the horrors of the 20th century when the sacredness of life was disregarded.
As Glenn recently said, we are becoming a "culture of death."
We often point to Nazi Germany as the prime example of a society that devalues life based on physical characteristics. However, we have been too quick to forget the seeds that resulted in the Holocaust were planted here during America's eugenics movement. We laid the egg that Hitler later hatched.
The seeds that resulted in the Holocaust were planted here during America's eugenics movement.
Here is a harrowing timeline of the history of eugenics in America. Many of these eugenics-based laws are STILL in effect to this day. America's continued history of eugenics demonstrates our culture stands on an ever-thinning razor between good and evil.
1883: Francis Galton coins the word "Eugenics"
This was a popular image promoting eugenics, describing it as the "self-direction of human evolution."
Famous British scientist and zoologist Francis Galton coined the term "eugenics" in 1883. Galton was the cousin of the "Father of Evolution" himself, Charles Darwin, and he took inspiration from his cousin's insights into "natural selection"—if species "naturally select" towards those with stronger and fitter traits to weed out the "weak" and "undesirable" traits, why couldn't humans expedite their own natural selection process?
The cousin of the "Father of Evolution" himself, Charles Darwin, Galton took inspiration from his cousin's insights into "natural selection."
Thus, Galton coined the term "eugenics"—taken from the Greek, which literally means "good genes." He called for the new practice of humans directing their own natural selection process—their own evolution into a stronger, fitter species. Galton defined eugenics as the practice of giving “the more suitable races or strains of blood a better chance of prevailing speedily over the less suitable.”
Eugenics emerged alongside "Social Darwinism," the popular 19th-century theory that promoted the similar ideal that society was ruled by “survival of the fittest." These two movements morphed into the "positive eugenics" that took hold in Britain, which promoted purposeful breeding to ensure the greatest possible genetic outcome for offspring.
Many would assume that such an enterprise emerged from Dr. Mengele out of Auschwitz rather than from one of Britain's most praised scientists. However, the roots of Mengele's practice started in Britain, and would soon be exported to America.
1896: Connecticut bans "negative-eugenics" marriages
The "Mongol Family" is an American family that was often put on display as an example of the result of when those with "negative eugenics" were allowed to "breed." The origin of the term "Mongol Family" is unclear.
While "positive eugenics" flourished across the pond, "negative eugenics" took hold in America. Instead of facilitating the "breeding" of the high class, "negative eugenics" attempted to ensure that the "lower" or "unfit classes" weren't able to breed at all.
"Negative eugenics" attempted to ensure that the "lower" or "unfit classes" weren't able to breed at all.
In 1896, Connecticut became the first state to enact a law to this end, prohibiting epileptics, imbeciles, and the feeble-minded from marrying. Many states followed suit in the first few years of the 20th century, such as Kansas, New Jersey, Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana.
1906: American Breeders' Association
This image was taken from a phrenology textbook from the 1960s, a practice used to collect "eugenics data" alleging physical differences could distinguish an "idiot" from a "malefactor" from a "poet."
As eugenics became a renowned scientific practice, the American Breeders Association established its eugenics branch in 1906—the first official consolidation of organized eugenics research. The eugenics branch was first chaired by ichthyologist and Stanford University president, David Starr Jordan.
1907: Indiana passes first state-level sterilization law
Indiana became the first state to legalize forced sterilization of criminals, "feeble-minded," or the disabled held in state custody.
Indiana became the first state to pass a forced sterilization law, allowing doctors to castrate or sterilize people in institutions against their will. Due to the rise of social Darwinism, it was believed that criminal behavior and poverty were hereditary traits that could be "bred out."
It was believed that criminal behavior and poverty were hereditary traits that could be "bred out."
Indiana's law, therefore, made sterilization mandatory for certain individuals with those "negative traits" in state custody. The law wasn't permanently repealed until 1974. Approximately 2,500 total in state custody were sterilized in Indiana.
1910: Eugenics Record Office
Dr. Charles Davenport spearheaded the Eugenics Office and served as the head of multiple "racial hygienic" boards in Germany, which eventually morphed into the Nazi's Aryan movement.
In 1910, the Eugenics Record Office (ERO) was established. As opposed to a single branch of the American Breeding Society, the ERO was dedicated entirely to eugenics research. The ERO was led by the "father of eugenics," Dr. Charles Davenport, and its activities were directly superintended by Harry H. Laughlin, a professor from Kirksville, Missouri, who would become one of the nation's leaders in eugenics-based legislation.
The ERO had multiple "missions," including compiling an index of traits in American families, training field workers to gather data throughout the United States, and providing guidance on the "eugenic fitness" for couples considering marriage. Some of America's greatest industrialist titans were the main funders behind the ERO, including the Kellogg family and the Harriman railroad empire. Yes, that's the same Kellogg whose name you probably see on your box of cereal.
1913: 29 states have banned mixed-eugenics marriages.
The "Feebleminded Family" was often displayed at Eugenics meetings and the World Fair to display the effects of "negative eugenics."
Francis Curtis | The Smithsonian
Connecticut passed the first eugenics-based marriage law in 1896. By 1913, more than half of the states have adopted eugenics-based marriage laws, prohibiting "mixed marriages," whether it be of race or socioeconomic class.
More than half of the states have adopted eugenics-based marriage laws.
1914: Laughlin's Model Eugenical Sterilization Law
Junius Wilson, a deaf man from North Carolina, was falsely accused of attempted rape in the early 1900s. He was incorrectly judged incompetent and sentenced to indefinite imprisonment. In 1931, Wilson became one of the 70,000 who were castrated under state law.
Everett Parker, Jr. | Smithsonian
1914, Laughlin from the ERO created the "Model Eugenical Sterilization Law" which proposed the sterilization of the “feebleminded” and those that had physical and mental defects. By this time, 11 states followed suit with Indiana to pass their own sterilization laws.
After Laughlin published his "Model Eugenical Sterilization Law" and proposed it before Congress, 18 more states followed soon after. 33 states in total enacted sterilization laws, leading to 60,000 known forced sterilizations without consent under state/federal custody. California, Virginia, and Michigan led the staunchest sterilization campaigns.
1916: Margaret Sanger opens up the first Planned Parenthood clinic in Brooklyn.
Planned Parenthood's founder Margaret Sanger encouraged birth control to "[weed] out the unfit."
Bettmann / Contributor | Getty Images
Planned Parenthood's founder, Margaret Sanger, was one of the largest proponents of eugenics. She routinely touted birth control and abortion as a means of controlling the reproduction of the "undesirables" and facilitating a stronger race through purposeful breeding. She regularly spoke at Ku Klux Klan rallies and other white supremacist groups championing a "stronger race."
This quote from Sanger sums it up:
Birth control itself, often denounced as a violation of natural law, is nothing more or less than the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit, of preventing the birth of defectives or of those who will become defectives.
1925: 'Mein Kampf'
In his book, Mein Kampf, Hitler praised the American eugenics movement, particularly the successful sterilization laws in California. American eugenics continued to influence the Aryan movement in Germany. Davenport, founder of the ERO, was a vocal supporter of Germany’s racial hygiene and eugenics and was on two editorial boards for the Zeitschrift für menschliche Vererbungs- und Konstitutionslehre, which were German racial hygiene journals.
American eugenics continued to influence the Aryan movement in Germany.
American policies and scientists like Davenport played a massive role in influencing Hitler’s forced sterilizations in Nazi Germany. In the 1930s, the Nazi Party requested help from California eugenicists on how to run their own sterilization program. Christina Cogdell, a cultural historian at the University of California-Davis, said:
Germany used California’s program as its chief example that this was a working, successful policy [...] If you were deemed worthy of being sterilized by a doctor, there was no board where you could have a hearing to protest.
1927: Buck v Bell
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. supported the majority opinion in favor of state sterilization laws in Buck v Bell.
Bettmann / Contributor | Getty Images
The Supreme Court upheld state-level sterilization laws in the landmark case, Buck v Bell. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. claimed:
It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.
Margaret Sanger spoke to the women’s auxiliary of the Ku Klux Klan at a rally in New Jersey in support of the Supreme Court’s decision. By the 1970s more than 60,000 individuals had been forcibly sterilized under thirty-three state laws, protected by the Supreme Court.
1933-34: Chicago World Fair exhibit: "Pedigree Study In Man"
These "goodly heritage" medals were given to family members in the "fitter families contests" held by the American Eugenics Society in venues like the World Fair in Chicago.
The 1933-34 World Fair in Chicago featured a eugenics exhibit titled “Pedigree-Study in Man” in coordination with the fair’s “Century of Progress” theme. Stations were organized to demonstrate how "favorable traits" in the human population could best be passed down. In addition to the World Fair, the ERO sponsored “fitter families” contests at state and county fairs, awarding medals to "eugenically sound" families.
Presentations contrasting the Roosevelt family and a "degenerate" family were displayed. Fairgoers were urged to adopt the progressive view that a responsible citizen should pursue marriage mindfully based on eugenics principles to promote a genetically stronger generation.
Present Day: 31 States STILL have forced sterilization laws.
31 states and the District of Columbia still retain the forced sterilization laws pushed by Laughlin and other eugenicists in the 20th century. Though the Dobbs decision overturned Roe v Wade, Margaret Sanger's legacy still lives on in the thousands of abortions that are still carried out every day. ELEVEN states have active state-assisted suicide laws, which is a glossier term for "euthanasia." How many other cases have there been, like Grace Schara, whose lives weren't deemed living because of their genetic condition?
It is ironic, to say the least, that eugenics emerged during America's "Progressive Age," where leaders and scientists trampled over basic human dignity for the sake of "progress." Are we headed toward a similar fate in our current century? If you ask the Schara family, we are already there.