Eugenics in Israel and America

You’d think the people who once were targets of racist eugenics would not practice that on others:

Israel has admitted for the first time that it has been giving Ethiopian Jewish immigrants birth-control injections, often without their knowledge or consent.

The government had previously denied the practice but the Israeli Health Ministry’s director-general has now ordered gynaecologists to stop administering the drugs. According a report in Haaretz, suspicions were first raised by an investigative journalist, Gal Gabbay, who interviewed more than 30 women from Ethiopia in an attempt to discover why birth rates in the community had fallen dramatically.

One of the Ethiopian women who was interviewed is quoted as saying: “They [medical staff] told us they are inoculations. We took it every three months. We said we didn’t want to.” It is alleged that some of the women were forced or coerced to take the drug while in transit camps in Ethiopia.

The drug in question is thought to be Depo-Provera, which is injected every three months and is considered to be a highly effective, long-lasting contraceptive.

Nearly 100,000 Ethiopian Jews have moved to Israel under the Law of Return since the 1980s, but their Jewishness has been questioned by some rabbis. Last year, the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who also holds the health portfolio, warned that illegal immigrants from Africa “threaten our existence as a Jewish and democratic state”.

via Israel gave birth control to Ethiopian Jews without their consent – Middle East – World – The Independent.

Meanwhile, the legacy of America’s eugenics policy is also in the news:

E. Lewis Reynolds was just a boy when his cousin hit him in the head with a rock, nearly killing him and triggering epileptic-like convulsions that lingered for some years.

His condition didn’t stop him from enlisting in the Marine Corps or serving his country in Korea and Vietnam during a 30-year military career.

But it was enough to classify a teenager as a “defective person” and order his compulsory sterilization under an infamous 1924 Virginia law whose aim was to build a more perfect society.The state has already offered a formal apology for a selective-breeding policy that led to the sterilization of hundreds of mostly poor, uneducated men and women and served as one of the models for eugenics programs in other states and even Nazi Germany.Now Reynolds, 85, thinks it’s time that Virginia pay compensation, too, to him and perhaps hundreds of others.

Their cause has been taken up by an improbable alliance in Virginia’s House of Delegates — conservative Republican Robert G. Marshall (Prince William) and liberal Democrat Patrick A. Hope (Arlington) — who have sponsored a bill that would require the state to pay each victim $50,000. . . .

The bill, HB 1529, would benefit people sterilized under the Virginia Eugenical Sterilization Act. The law — which declared that “heredity plays an important part in the transmission of insanity, idiocy, imbecility, epilepsy, and crime” — was signed March 20, 1924. It had the blessing of doctors and scientists at the University of Virginia and elsewhere. Under its provisions, people who were confined to state institutions because of mental illness, mental retardation or epilepsy could be sterilized as a “benefit both to themselves and society.”

By weeding out its weaker members through selective breeding, society would improve, according to the eugenics movement, which was popular then. In 1907, Indiana became the first of 33 states to enact laws allowing compulsory sterilization of people deemed to be unfit to reproduce, lest their offspring burden society. An estimated 60,000 people were sterilized nationwide by government decree over the years.

“Eugenics was some sort of policy that we could create a perfect race in America,” Hope said in an interview Wednesday. “Obviously, that was just a horrible thing, not to mention putting it in our own code.”

Only California, with 20,000 such operations, had more than Virginia, whose law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Buck v. Bell in 1927. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, writing for the majority, said such measures were justifiable so that society would not be “swamped by incompetence.”

“Three generations of imbeciles are enough,” he wrote.

More than half of the sterilizations in Virginia occurred at the Virginia Colony for Epileptics and the Feebleminded in Lynchburg, but state hospitals in Petersburg, Staunton, Williamsburg and Marion also performed them. Males were given vasectomies; females underwent salpingectomies to remove part of the fallopian tubes.

Most victims were white, but some African Americans and Indians were sterilized. The last two people sterilized under the law had the surgery in 1979, according to state records obtained by Marshall.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Tom Hering

    So Israelis can be rotten bastards too. Who knew? Well, maybe Christian Zionists didn’t know, or don’t want to know, but …

  • Mary

    From the article:
    Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, writing for the majority, said such measures were justifiable so that society would not be “swamped by incompetence.”“Three generations of imbeciles are enough,” he wrote.
    You mean the Supreme Court can be wrong?

  • Paul Reed

    People pay attention to forced sterilization, but totally ignore other forms of birth control. In a matter of decades, Arabs will outnumber Jews within the land of Israel because Palestinians have a very high birth rate. How is that going to play out? In even less time Hispanics will outnumber whites in Texas, and next year they will outnumber whites in California. We spend all this time, money, and energy talking about foreign threats which are generally far less serious than invasion, and people seem to ignore the fact that you can take over a country without ever firing a shot.

  • Kirk

    @3

    Wow, there is just so much wrong with that little paragraph you wrote there .

    1.) “People pay attention to forced sterilization, but totally ignore other forms of birth control.”

    Yes, that’s because forced sterilization IS FORCED! As in, given against the will of a mother! As in, depriving a human being of her ability to bear children without her knowledge or consent! This differs from other forms of birth control in that women (and men) decided of their own free will whether or not they wish to have children.

    2.) “In a matter of decades, Arabs will outnumber Jews within the land of Israel because Palestinians have a very high birth rate. How is that going to play out?”

    Hopefully, it’ll mean more equitable representation of Arabs in the Israeli parliament and the repeal of laws that favor practicing Jews of secular Jews and people of other religions.

    3.) “In even less time Hispanics will outnumber whites in Texas, and next year they will outnumber whites in California. We spend all this time, money, and energy talking about foreign threats which are generally far less serious than invasion, and people seem to ignore the fact that you can take over a country without ever firing a shot.”

    God forbid that brown people outnumber white people in any area of the country!!! I mean, that truly is worse than foreign invasion! I can’t imagine anything worse than people of a different ethnic background than myself being in control of anything!

  • Trey

    Kirk is right although what is called birth control today also includes abortion inducing drugs (Ella and Plan B).

    Does ethnicity give a particular religious or political view? Perhaps, but that isn’t congenital. Paul @3 may be concerned about the Balkanization of America, but again we must assume the will all have similar views.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Paul Reed, the underlying racism in that paragraph is frightening!

  • Joe

    The sufferers of eugenics policy certainly are entitled to an apology, a change in policy and righteous indignation.

    But money? Must today’s taxpayers pay guilt money for the sins of the last couple of generations? If yes, who else is ready to get in line for some cash? I’m sure someone in my family tree was treated by the gov’t in a way that we would consider inhumane or unethical today. How do I sign up?

  • tODD

    Joe (@7), are you kidding me? You don’t think a man — a man who is still alive, thank you — who has been irreparably harmed by the government should be due any recompense? If they’d gone around chopping off arms, would you still complain about all the one-armed money grubbers “getting in line for some cash”?

    I can’t believe you’d take such a callous attitude towards this.

  • DonS

    I’m generally not in favor of reparations for slavery, American Indians, and the like, because the despicable acts that occurred were centuries ago, and all of the victims and perpetrators are dead. At some point, causation and injury are too attenuated to merit compensation, and the fact is that this world is full of injustice — we can’t compensate for it all. Life goes on, and we need to learn to work with the hand dealt to us.

    However, in cases where the victims are still alive, and the damages are very apparent, reparations are appropriate. Taking someone’s ability to procreate is a grievous infringement on their Constitutional rights, and compensation is appropriate to those still living. I felt the same way about the legislation to compensate Japanese victims of U.S. internment policies during WWII.

  • Joe

    The problem is that the money doesn’t “fix” anything here. In our system, people recover money for two reasons: 1. to make them whole (recover lost income or out of pocket expenses incurred) and 2. to punish the wrongdoer so that the wrongdoer won’t do it any more.

    You can quantify the actual cost of a lost limb. I don’t know that you can quantify the cost of lost reproduction. (on a pure numbers basis, it be an economic advantage). So the money doesn’t fix anything – it doesn’t make him whole. And, it doesn’t have the likelihood of preventing the gov’t from doing this again for two reasons. 1. Virginia is already not doing it and there is very little chance that they will do it again. 2. $50,000 is not enough to really prevent the gov’t from doing it again. So what is the public policy point of doing that or than emotionalism and mugging for cameras.

    or perhaps its Friday after a long week and I need to take a powder …

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    If you want reparations, how’s this: instead of rewarding somebody with a large sum of money, how about exempting them from federal taxes?

    Back to the matter at hand, sterilization is wrong, no matter who does it.

  • Cincinnatus

    Ah, Kirk@4: thanks for being our resident, stereotypical liberal cosmopolitan cultural imperialist!

  • fjsteve

    They already forgot.

  • kerner

    J Dean:

    How about exempting ME from federal taxes? I’m sure somebody in my ancestoral past was abused by somebody else.

  • Booklover

    The U.S. does it to Africans, too. I once worked with a woman who was very proud of her daughter–she said she was in Africa helping those less fortunate. I later learned from the woman that her daughter works with a doctor as part of some sort of “do-gooder” group, and she gives the African women birth control in secret. The woman thought this was a very great thing. This is the epitome of elitism.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    kerner @14,
    That’s the irony of it. As somebody of Italian (Roman) ancestry, I can show people places where my ancestors were both slavers and enslaved.

    I figure that when all reparations are said and done, I’m supposed to be exchanging pizza for uzzo from the Greeks.

  • kerner

    J Dean:

    AHA!!! As a Lutheran, I can claim to have been abused by Rome! And I LOVE a good pizza. Where do I sign up?

  • helen

    You’d think the people who once were targets of racist eugenics would not practice that on others:

    You’d think that a people who complain of having property stolen from them, and who have been extorting money from Europe for nearly 60 years now, (even for things like insurance policies they haven’t evidence beyond “probability” existed) would not turn around and occupy others’ land and dwellings without just compensation. But it’s been done since 1949, is still being done and there is no intention of stopping it.

  • helen

    A high school jock in Houston Texas was reported to have a dozen children by almost as many mothers, with no intention or ability to support any of them. I’d say that in that case, three was enough, too.
    [In 15 years, or less, that dozen will be reproducing.]

  • DannyE

    I reckon Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes had it right.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    (subscribe)

  • sg

    “Paul Reed, the underlying racism in that paragraph is frightening!”

    Paul seems to find the prospect of being outnumbered frightening. It is pretty rational to not want to be a minority because it is a structurally inferior position to be in. Also, when living as a minority among a more violent majority, it is further frightening. I understand what Paul Reed finds frightening: diminished rule of law, living as a minority among a more violent majority. I just don’t see what you find frightening.

  • sg

    A high school jock in Houston Texas was reported to have a dozen children by almost as many mothers, with no intention or ability to support any of them.

    This is what society reaps when it does not shame women for extramarital sex, rather rewards them with money from the pockets of their fellow citizens. These women were all competing for the hot jock the only way they knew how. Now the rest of the community will be supporting them. Among those in the community that will be supporting them are all the nice guys they could have married, but no, they were too busy chasing the bad boy. We have this incorrect notion that women are somehow “better” than guys, but no, they are every bit as bad.


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