Thursday, July 12, 2018

Survival of the Richest

Grinnell |  Officially, the eugenics movement ended for the most part by the end of the Baby Boom, as proven by the closure of most official eugenics organizations. Unfortunately, the eugenics movement has been replaced by a slightly modified neo-eugenics movement, which also believes that characteristics or traits such as poverty, criminality, and illegitimacy are signs that a person is unfit to reproduce. The difference is that neo-eugenicists believe that these traits are passed on not genetically, but through culture and environment. This movement recognizes that traits like poverty and illegitimacy are not actually included in the genetic code, but it has many of the same effects as the original eugenics movement.

Neo-eugenics developed during the Civil Rights Movement, a time when white privilege was clearly threatened in the United States.[3] These neo-eugenicists were concerned with preserving the white race, which ironically now included southern and eastern Europeans, who had earlier been considered the greatest threat to the purity of white America. Currently, neo-eugenics rarely targets white women, regardless of their socioeconomic status, but instead focuses its attention on recent immigrants, blacks, and Mexicans, among others.

In the 1970s, the eugenics movement began to focus its attention on other underprivileged groups of people. Physicians employed by the Indian Health Service, who were supposed to be providing medical care for Native American women, forcibly sterilized somewhere between 25 and 42 percent of Native American women of childbearing age. At the same time, women on welfare who had an illegitimate child were often punished by forced sterilizations immediately after giving birth. The eugenicists and physicians who performed this procedure justified it by saying that “those who accepted government assistance should submit to government oversight and conform to mainstream, white middle-class values and gender roles.”[4] Anyone who did not follow the social rules of middle-class white men could be subject to forced sterilization.

Unfortunately, the neo-eugenics movement has not disappeared from the American consciousness. Between 2006 and 2010, 148 women incarcerated in California prisons were illegally and forcibly sterilized through the use of tubal ligations.[5] Only since 1979 have forced sterilizations been forbidden in California, and although these women were clearly wronged, there are still many supporters of these practices for women in prison.[6]

Despite the fact that eugenic ideas still permeate much of American society, statistics show that fertility levels are declining in most of the world. If current trends continue, in the near future half of the human population will be at the replacement level of fertility, or 2.1 children per set of parents.[7] If all humans eventually began to reproduce at exactly the replacement level of fertility, the entire world population would stabilize and we would not see the exponential human population growth that we are currently experiencing. The United States is currently at almost exactly the replacement level of 2.1 children per family, and any increases in the national population are due almost exclusively to immigration and higher life expectancies, not incredibly high birth rates.