In one way or another, we have all encountered and internalized the horror of Nazi death camps, which embodied the callous destruction of human life by means so systematic, efficient and brutal as to be nearly inconceivable. Hitler himself endures in our collective consciousness as evil incarnate, the anti-Christ, the blackened soul whose reign filled millions of unmarked graves before he turned, in a final act of cowardice, to death. Despite the continuing prosecution of his lesser confederates, our thirst for justice has never been sated. This we do not forget.
What has been largely ignored is the undeniably American root of Hitler’s preoccupation with so-called genetic perfection, the eugenics movement favored by the liberal-minded elite of his day. Purporting to do away with the scourges of society – poverty, stupidity, weakness, disability – these intellectuals supported programs to end breeding among the “unfit.” Those branches of unworthy family trees were stripped, via sterilization, marriage limitation laws and other means, of their reproductive rights.
Support for eugenics was not merely encapsulated among the think-tank intelligentsia. It was a cultural force. Rockefeller funded the research of German scientists. Supreme Court justices affirmed the value of pure breeding. And, in one of the most successfully remarketed offshoots of the movement, Margaret Sanger introduced birth control as a means of reducing, as she put it in “The Pivot of Civilization” (1922), “human waste.”
Decades later, the mother of Planned Parenthood – the name was adopted to afford Sanger some distance from her politically imprudent praise of Hitler – would look with pride on the contraceptive-dependent society she has shaped.
She would not, however, sanction abortion.
An inveterate racist, Sanger would not rejoice that in 2012, more black babies were aborted than born in New York City. She would not celebrate the fetal screening that frequently ensures “imperfect” humans will never be born. She would certainly not approve of how many of her own gender have been killed through sex-selective abortion. And, she could not have foreseen that eugenics, long since rebranded as “human genetics,” still thrives among that same crowd – progressive-minded intellectuals – and is currently facilitating the “creation” of made-to-order babies.
Of the billions of babies conceived since Sanger’s day, how many millions have been ripped from their mother’s womb, evidence of the lingering malaise of eugenicist poison? How did American society, in so few years, go from an abhorrence of abortion, even among its most eugenics-minded citizens, to approval? Why, when I scroll through my Facebook feed, do I often see pro-abortion posts from my graduate school friends and professors?
Perhaps it is because, distracted by the more recent memory of the feminist movement, they have forgotten our older and more pernicious cultural heritage – an ideology that prompted one of the most hideous genocides in history and thrives, largely unnoticed, even today.