Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Eugenicist

In an interview published in last Sunday’s New York Times magazine, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, revealed the purpose for legalized abortion: “Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe [v. Wade] was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.” (Emphasis added.)

What a deplorable statement. Unfortunately, the Times reporter failed to ask the obvious follow-up: What populations do we have too many of? Jews? African-Americans? Hispanic-Americans? Catholics? Fundamentalists? The poor? Welfare recipients?

This language about getting rid of “populations that we don’t want to have too many of” – a/k/a undesirables or those “unfit to live” – is the standard endgame of a vile product of the social Darwinist movement: eugenics, the so-called science of good birth.

According to radical social Darwinists, people who are an economic or medical burden on society should be eliminated. To promote their agenda, they founded numerous organizations, including the Eugenics Record Office and the Cold Spring Harbor Eugenics Laboratory (funded by the Rockefellers, Harrimans, and Carnegies), and introduced eugenics legislation throughout the nation.

America’s leading apostle of social Darwinism, William Graham Sumner of Yale (1840-1910), declared: “Let it be understood that we cannot go outside of this alternative: liberty, inequality, survival of the fittest; not liberty, equality, survival of the unfittest. The former carries society forward and favors all its best members; the latter carries society downwards and favors all its worst members.”

Another eugenicist, Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), warned the developed nations not to foster the survival of the unfit by interfering with harsh economic realities. In the name of biology, he opposed free public education, sanitation laws, compulsory vaccinations, and welfare programs for those he called the “hereditary poor.” He feared that these services would encourage the perpetuation of undesirable physical, intellectual, and social traits. Spencer’s social Darwinism made the pseudo-science of eugenics “morally” permissible in the name of preserving “society as a whole.”

Even Theodore Roosevelt caught eugenics fever. “Someday,” wrote Roosevelt in 1913 to Charles Davenport, director of the Eugenics Record Office, “we must realize that the prime duty, the inescapable duty of the good citizen of the right type is to leave his or her blood behind him in the world, and that we have no business permitting the perpetuation of citizens of the wrong type.”

In his work Preface to Eugenics (1940) Frederick Osborne of the American Museum of Natural History called for the segregation of the “hereditary defective” in state institutions; “It is doubtful whether democracy can long continue in any society except one whose operation favors the survival of competent people in every social and occupational group.”

The National Socialists were the first to make eugenics a matter of public policy. The 1933 German Racial legislation signed into law by Chancellor Hitler provided the legal foundation for the Nazi Final Solution of Europe’s Jewish population and approved euthanasia, abortion, artificial insemination, electric-shock experiments, tissue and muscle experiments, fetal experimentation and gas chambers. All these Nazi horrors took place in the name of eugenics. Joseph Goebbels ordered all German organizations to be educated in “the eugenics way of thinking!”

When the Nuremburg trials revealed the horrendous consequences of Nazi eugenics programs, the American movement went underground. The Cold Spring Harbor Eugenics Laboratory, for instance, dropped “Eugenics” from its title in an attempt to maintain respectability. Annals of Eugenics became Annals of Human Genetics. Eugenicists now called themselves “population scientists” or “human geneticists.”

By the 1970s, however, the eugenics movement made a comeback with Roe v. Wade, their biggest victory. Reviewing this . . . success, journalist-philosopher Malcolm Muggeridge, concluded, “For the Guinness Book of Records, you can submit this: that it takes about thirty years in our humane society to transform a war crime into an act of compassion.”

The eugenics movement flourishes because public officials, like Justice Ginsburg, subscribe to an ideology that discards the sanctity of the human person. Believing that man is merely a machine or animal – not a person with a soul and, therefore, unique among God’s creations – makes it easy for them to form a rational justification for getting rid of “populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”

It would be comforting to think that Justice Ginsburg will catch a lot of flack and be compelled to explain her outrageous comment in the Times to the American people. But this is one bit of news – and history – the Times is unlikely to think fit to print.

So let’s at least remind ourselves of G.K. Chesterton’s words back in 1915:

[E]ugenics is chiefly a denial of the Declaration of Independence. It urges that so far from all men being born equal, numbers of them ought not to be born at all. And so far from their being entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, they are to be forbidden a form of liberty and happiness so private that the maddest inquisitor never dreamed of meddling with it before.

George J. Marlin, Chairman of the Board of Aid to the Church in Need USA, is the author of The American Catholic Voter and Sons of St. Patrick, written with Brad Miner. His most recent book is Mario Cuomo: The Myth and the Man.