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Eugenics: A Brave New World for Feminist Disability Studies?

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Hannah Hendrix

on 28 March 2013

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Transcript of Eugenics: A Brave New World for Feminist Disability Studies?

A Brave New World for Feminist Disability Studies? Eugenics: Eugenics in Practice What is eugenics? Eugenics Around the World German Eugenics German eugenics is perhaps the most infamous of all eugenics movements--and they're all pretty infamous. But who hasn't heard of the Holocaust? Is it wrong for a woman to choose not to bear a potential child based on the results of prenatal testing or genetic screening?

Is it right to do so?

Who gets to decide? Selective Abortion Selective abortion is based on the testing of an existing fetus. Genetic Screening The advent of genetic testing has also had an impact on in vitro fertilization: it is now possible to test embryos for genetic sequences which could potentially translate into disability, as well as for gender or predisposition toward intelligence.
There is tremendous pressure to discard any embryos with a predisposition to conditions that society views as impairing the functioning of an individual. Positive Eugenics Negative Eugenics Galtonian Eugenics a moral philosophy promoting the improvement of humanity by encouraging the healthiest, most able members of society to reproduce. termed in 1883 by Charles Galton -- Image Archive of the American Eugenics Movement, "Scientific Origins" Negative Eugenics removing the least able members of a society from the reproductive pool to improve the "fitness" of humanity approach favored by eugenics movements in the U.S., Scandanavia, and Germany --Image Archive of the American Eugenics Movement During the 1920's and 1930's, negative eugenics was extremely popular around the world. United States methods included... marriage laws
immigration restriction
enforced sterilization The Buck v. Bell precedent allowing sterilization of the "feebleminded" has never been overruled. Bibliography Dolan DNA Learning Center, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. "Image Archive on the American Eugenics Movement." Ethical, Legal and Social Implications Research Program, National Human Genome Research Institute. Web. 4 March 2013. http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/eugenics/
Eugenics. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/eugenics.
Guo, Sun-Wei. (April 2012). “China: The Maternal and Infant Health Care Law.” In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd: Chichester. DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0005201.pub2
Mahowald, Mary B. “A Feminist Standpoint.” In: A. Silvers, P. Wasserman, & M. Mahowald (Eds.) (1998). Disability, Difference, Discrimination (pp. 209-251). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publ.
Saxton, Marsha. “Disability Rights and Selective Abortion.” In L. Davis (Ed) (2006). The Disability Studies Reader, (pp. 105-116). New York, NY: Routledge.
Sieczkowski, Cavan. “India’s 40 Million ‘Missing’ Girls: The Pervasive Problem of 'Gendercide'.” International Business Times. International Business Times, 14 Dec. 2011. Web. 6 March 2013.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “Introduction to the Holocaust.” Holocaust Encyclopedia.http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/?ModuleId=10005143. Accessed on 6 March, 2013. Right to (Pick and) Choose Particularly in China and India, some use prenatal testing to determine the sex of the child and selectively abort on the basis of sex. A prenatal test such as amniocentesis or, increasingly, chorionic villus sampling is performed, and the mother then has the ability to decide to abort the fetus based on the information gathered by the exam. Some fear that this type of genetic screening will eventually lead to the creation of "designer babies"--meaning that parents would be able to choose the characteristics of their child. This is part of the fear put into literary form by Aldous Huxley in his 1926 dystopian novel "Brave New World." (Interestingly, Huxley's brother Julian was a leading American eugenicist.) Many feminist thinkers are wary of arguing against genetic testing even if they do not support it. They fear that denying someone the right to choose to bear or not bear a child on a certain basis will lead to denying the right of a woman to decide to bear or not bear a child in any situation. This fear is widespread in the U.S., where women's rights to choose are almost constantly under fire. So what's more important? A woman's rights to her body? An embryo or fetus's right to not be discriminated against? OR When a pregnant woman learns of a fetal anomaly, especially a congenital anomaly, she is unlikely to carry the pregnancy to term. According to Mary Mahowald, "the desire to avoid having children with disabilities seems to be the main motivation for prenatal testing." -- Mahowald, "A Feminist Standpoint" Conversely, Some people use prenatal testing and selective abortion to ensure, as much as possible, that a child will be born with a specific condition, such as deafness. This is commonly associated with a positive identification with disability on the part of parent(s), as in an identification with deaf culture. There isn't an answer. At least, not one that can make everyone happy. What do you think? If the primary purpose of genetic screening is discriminatory, should it be legal? Does a woman have a right to know? In some states (ex: Arizona) where selective abortion is illegal, a doctor is permitted to keep information from a pregnant woman about the health of her fetus if it might influence her decision on whether to carry the pregnancy to term. -- itsagirlmovie.com This practice of aborting female fetuses is only one part of a larger "gendercide"--every year, China and India eliminate more girls than are born in America. Marriage Laws
Sterilization Laws
Population Policies
Forced abortion/Forced pregnancy
Immigration restriction
Genocide & "Gendercide" Furthermore, the technology required for this kind of genetic selection is expensive, so it would be used primarily by the upper class. Since the upper class tends to make up the ruling body in the U.S., this could result in drastic changes in the way federal funds are spent to offset the costs of medical treatment for people with disabilities, not to mention the effects on the class divide. --Saxton, "Disability Rights
and Selective Abortion" Although the eugenics movement began in Britain and the U.S., it also affected many other countries. A few of these countries (like China and India) still practice it today. Sweden Belgium San Salvador Venezuela Japan Italy Mexico Cuba India Russia Germany Uruguay Siam France China China It was during the eugenics movement that China implemented its infamous one-child policy. It resulted in the deaths of millions of girl children, since only boys could carry on a family's name and its honor. Also, men would make more money, allowing their parents to live more comfortably as they age. -- Edge.org It serves to keep control of both population and "dysgenics"--literally meaning "bad genes"--which in this case refers to poor, rural peasants. "later, longer, fewer, better" India Some eugenics practices in these countries are mandated by law, others only by custom. Maternal and Infant Health Care Law The law, originally entitled the "Eugenics and Health Protection Law", was created "in response to an
increasingly heavy burden of disability in the nation" and to stop "some dubious local practices in regulating reproduction such as the regulation in Gansu province, which mandated sterilisation for mentally impaired considering marriage and the one in Shanxi province which banned anyone with an IQ lower than 40 from getting married" (Gao, p. 1). Mandates a pre-marital medical examination (PMME) serious genetic diseases
infectious diseases
certain mental disorders If a disease is serious enough, "long-term contraception or ligation will be used to enforce childlessness; otherwise the couple will not be allowed to be married" (p. 2). Pre-natal testing is compulsory if a fetal abnormality is found or suspected If a fetus is found to have a serious somatic (bodily) or genetic disorder, the Maternal and Infant Health Care Law mandates that the pregnancy will be terminated. In India, 40 million little girls are missing. Since 2001, India has been experiencing a steep increase in the ratio of male to female children, especially ages 0 to 6. sex-selective abortion
infanticide In India, not only is abortion illegal: so is using ultrasound to discover the sex of a baby. -- Sieczkowski In some parts of India, there are 3 girls for every 10 boys. height race attractiveness intelligence sexual orientation --Saxton, p. 111 In some places (for example, the UK), the majority of physicians will not authorize prenatal tests until the mother "has agreed in advance to abort when the results are positive for an abnormality." --Shildrick, pp. 154 According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, "The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators," a definition that is reasonably accurate. However, it fails to account for the other five million people who were put to death in the name of "Aryan" racial superiority. -- ushmm.org At least 200,000 mentally or physically disabled patients were murdered through the "Euthanasia Program," Germany's first attempt at so-called racial "integrity". In addition to European Jews, Nazi eugenic policy targeted Roma (Gypsy) peoples, Poles, Russians, Jehovah's Witnesses, non-heterosexuals, and people with disabilities. The "Euthanasia" Program was Nazi Germany's first mass murder program, beginning about two years before the start of the genocide of Jews in Europe. At first it was limited to infants, but the program was soon expanded to include youth up to age 17. It was not long before the program was expanded once again to include adults who lived in institutions for the chronically ill and for the aged. Eugenics has a long history of targeting disability and characterizing it as "dysgenic", or detrimental to humanity. What do you think the connection is between DYS-genic and DIS-ability? Is it a physical, a social, or a vocabulary issue?
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