First President Obama appointed Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, who supports limitations on end-of-life care, as his top medical advisor. Now he has named John Holdren, another culture-of-death stalwart, as his top science advisor.

This newest Obama czar openly stated his support for mandatory abortions in Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment, a book Holdren co-authored with Paul and Anne Ehrlich some years ago:

There exists ample authority under which population growth could be regulated. It has been concluded that compulsory population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing Constitution if the population crisis became sufficiently severe …

Ecoscience also casually mentions sterilants in drinking water or staple foods of those who “contribute to social deterioration,” the implantation of long-term birth control devices in women who have already given birth to two or three children, and an international monitor empowered to enforce population limits on any nation under scrutiny. (The Ehrlichs and Holdren have claimed, quite implausibly, that they were just listing possibilities then under discussion.)

Grilled by Senator David Vitter about these and other disturbing views last month, Holdren stated that it was “no longer productive” to think about optimal population size – but conceded little else. The media, as has become their custom when some Obama appointee is revealed to have an outrageously radical past, merely noted the hysteria of Holdren’s opponents but did not explore his positions.

The Obama Administration’s social planners stand in a long tradition of progressives who reject the Judeo-Christian belief in the sanctity of human life. Many people still doubt that liberal-minded people actually hold such beliefs, but, as history shows, American progressives have often endorsed eugenics and other morally repugnant practices. Eliminating inferiors, they argued, is permissible in the name of preserving society as a whole. Holdren and his allies wouldn’t put it that way, because it plays badly – even to an adoring media. But they don’t hesitate to talk about restraining population in the name of preventing climate change – one of Dr. Holdren’s recent preoccupations.

And media acquiescence in progressive eugenics has its own long and “distinguished” past. E.L. Godkin, founder of the Nation, Herbert Croly, founder of the New Republic, and William Allen White, editor of the Emporia (Kansas) Gazette, endorsed population-control programs, because, they believed, America should be governed and populated by its “superior classes.”

In local politics, however, they faced formidable political machines dominated by Catholics, so progressives looked to Washington for national solutions. They demanded quota legislation to end immigration from eastern and southern Europe. A U.S. government-funded forty-two-volume Immigration Commission Report, presented to Congress in 1910 by Senator William Dillingham of Vermont, provided a pseudo-biological foundation for the restrictive immigration acts of 1921 and 1924.

Those Commission findings, described by historian Oscar Handlin as “neither impartial nor scientific,” gave credence to anthropologist Madison Grant’s belief that people from the Mediterranean basin, the Balkans, and Polish ghettos were vulgarizing America. Many distinguished Americans –Theodore Roosevelt included – endorsed the findings of the Dillingham report and its enabling legislation, which effectively cut off immigration of this “human flotsam.”

By 1940, thirty states had enacted laws calling for compulsory sterilization of poor and mentally disabled citizens. The majority of these laws were based on the Model Eugenical Sterilization Law, which called for the sterilization – “regardless of etiology or prognosis” – of criminals, mental patients, the feeble-minded, inebriates, the blind, the diseased and included those with physical impairments (the deaf, the deformed, and the “dependent,” which meant the homeless, orphans, and paupers).

Today’s progressives prefer more vagueness in the categories for elimination: “unwanted pregnancies,” fetuses with “birth defects,” and, in developed countries especially, any children because of their large “carbon footprint.” But the result for those never born is the same.

The strongest voice against all such schemes was and is the Catholic Church. In 1920 the Catholic World summed up the Church’s position when it declared that she “uncompromisingly sets her face against all materialistic social experiments that outrage human dignity, go counter to elemental ethics…and lead to callous disregard of the weak elements of the community.”

In his 1930 encyclical, Casti Connubii, Pope Pius XI wrote: “[W]here no crime has taken place and there is no cause present for grave punishment, [public magistrates] can never directly harm, or tamper with the integrity of the body, either for the reasons of eugenics, or for any other reason.”

Prior to World War II, the eugenics movement was based on population genetics (i.e. that Anglo-Saxons are genetically superior to, say, the Irish). In our time, the movement is focused on individual genetics. French historian André Pichot explains the new approach this way: “Freedom of artificial selection [replaces] the dictatorship of natural selection. . . .The threat is to the individual not to the population; so likewise is the remedy.”

At a conference about eugenics last month, Pope Benedict XVI warned that confidence in science “may not overshadow the primacy of ethics when human life is at stake.”

John Holdren and many others who are joining the Obama administration are committed to state planning of reproductive and life-extending procedures, though they know it is impolitic to say so openly. If they are to be stopped, Catholics must once again uncompromisingly oppose this New Eugenics. If we don’t, no one will be safe.

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.