18 May 2011

Eugenics Today

As we know, I am a huge nerd. This means that at work I listen to a rather educational sort of podcast. Yesterday it was one from 'How Stuff Works' about eugenics and it really got me thinking. The concept is nothing new to me, and I have problems with the hiding of it in American History, but the apparent current relevance of it is new knowledge for me. There is a program called Project Prevention where this woman will pay addicts for being sterilized or getting a long term IUD. The purpose of this is to prevent pregnancy of addicts.  The numbers of unwanted pregnancies are huge, resulting in miscarriages, still births, and sickly children.  The babies are often premature, addicted, and have problems throughout their lives.  Many end up in foster care, which can be just as harmful and deserves a post all of its own, and later become addicts. Their addicted parents are unable to take care of them and the burden is shifted to the state. 

Financially, for the government (and perhaps even the parents) the $300 one can garnish from sterilization is much better than pregnancy and child related costs.  The children are generally unwanted by the parents in the first place, and are merely a financial burden for the state. For the children, it is much better to not be born in that sort of situation. It seems to be a win-win. 

And then enters the problems of eugenics, improving the genetics of the population for the benefit of further generations. Eugenics has a negative connotation, especially for its use by Nazi Germany, to promote a supreme race. Project Prevention also appears to be targeting minorities, but one must remember that the minorities over-represent themselves socio-economically in poverty, drug addiction, etc, but Project Prevention is determinedly not racist. Another problem is that they are apparently bribing these women, buying their reproductive rights, who are not even in their right mind to make that sort of decision. Some feel that the money could be better spent providing care and help for the addicts, to help them to make their reproductive decisions on their own and aid them to be better mothers to the children they already have, and eventually regain custody of their children in foster care. 

Initially, this seemed like a good idea to me. These people have ruined their lives and are bringing children -- who have no choice in the matter - to this earth with no means to provide for them. I am all about taking care of children and making the world a better place for them. I like to pretend I am analytical and logical and that I can look at things without feelings. Financially this is great. But then I start to think about it. And it's totally legal, and the women are choosing to take the money and get sterilized.  But what is to stop shelters or recovery centers from making sterilization a requirement? Or even the government? Who gets to make these decisions?


Tenika Dennis said...

Oooh the crazy ethics involved in this situation. I had no idea about Project Prevention, now I'm going to go research it some more. It's an interesting concept...

Jayme said...

Do it! Let me know what you think!