Can it Get Any Worse?

You decide.

Yesterday (July 14, 2009), I posted on President Obama's appointee to head the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, who favors "a stance of 'respect for [patient] autonomy' and 'nondirective counseling'" when a mother "indicate[s] an interest in aborting" a child who is diagnosed in utero with a disability, such as Down Syndrome. See Dr. Collins versus Dr. Porter at http://lutheransandcontraception.blogspot.com/2009/07/dr-collins-versus-dr-porter.html. It is hard to imagine how it can get any worse than that. But . . .

In yesterday's (July 14, 2009) Washington Examiner, available at http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/blogs/beltway-confidential/Obamas-science-czar-suggested-compulsory-abortion-sterilization-50783612.html we read the following:

Obama's science czar suggested compulsory abortion, sterilization

David Freddoso reported,
Internet reports are now circulating that Obama's Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, John Holdren, penned a 1977 book that approved of and recommended compulsory sterilization and even abortion in some cases, as part of a government population control regime.

Given the general unreliability of Internet quotations, I wanted to go straight to this now-rare text and make sure the reports were both accurate and kept Holdren's writings in context. Generally speaking, they are, and they do.

The Holdren book, titled Ecoscience and co-authored with Malthus enthusiasts Paul and Anne Ehrlich, weighs in at more than 1,000 pages. Of greatest importance to its discussion of how to limit the human population is its disregard for any ethical considerations.

Holdren (with the Ehrlichs) notes the existence of “moral objections to some proposals . . . especially to any kind of compulsion.” But his approach is completely amoral. He implies that compulsory population control is less preferable, because of some people's objections, but he argues repeatedly that it is sometimes necessary, and necessity trumps all ethical objections.

* * *

Holdren refers approvingly, for example, to Indira Gandhi's government for its then-recent attempt at a compulsory sterilization program:
India in the mid-1970s not only entertained the idea of compulsory sterilization, but moved toward implementing it. . . . This decision was greeted with dismay abroad, but Indira Gandhi's government felt it had little other choice. There is too little time left to experiment further with educational programs and hope that social change will generate a spontaneous fertility decline, and most of the Indian population is too poor for direct economic pressures (especially penalties) to be effective.

When necessary, then, compulsory sterilization is justified. This attitude suffuses the following passage, in which the possibility of putting a “sterilant” into a population's drinking water is seriously discussed. Holdren and his co-authors do not recommend this particular method, but their objections to it are merely practical and health-related, not moral or stemming from any concern for human freedom.

* * *

Holdren and his co-authors . . . look with more favor on [a] “milder” form of coercive sterilization:

Of course, a government might require only implantation of the contraceptive capsule, leaving its removal to the individual's discretion but requiring reimplantation after childbirth. Since having a child would require positive action (removal of the capsule), many more births would be prevented than in the reverse situation.

Holdren and his co-authors also tackle the problem of illegitimacy, recognizing that it could be one consequence of a society which, in its effort to limit births, downgrades the value of intact nuclear families and encourages lifelong bachelorhood:
[R]esponsible parenthood ought to be encouraged and illegitimate childbearing could be strongly discouraged. One way to carry out this disapproval might be to insist that all illegitimate babies be put up for adoption -- especially those born to minors, who generally are not capable of caring properly for a child alone...It would even be possible to require pregnant single women to marry or have abortions, perhaps as an alternative to placement for adoption, depending on the society.

So, while Dr. Collins favored no efforts to dissuade a mother from aborting her disabled child, John Holdren favored involuntary sterilization and even abortion in some cases. The reader can decide which is worse. These are examples of those whom our nation now has directing our health and science programs.

Kyrie eleison.

No comments: