Your Own Little Corner of the Gas Chamber

While we are on the subject of the often devious rhetoric and tactics of our anti-choice friends, Ross Douthat supplies what I suspect will be a real trend-setter in Right-To-Life circles going forward: a column suggesting, subtly but definitely, that state intervention to ban reproductive choice may become necessary to prevent the practice of Nazi-style eugenics by “parents” (i.e., women) once scientific advances make prenatal decisions more sophisticated.

Douthat goes out of his way, naturally, to deny that he is associating women choosing abortions with Nazis (this ancient anti-choice tactic has been notably unsuccessful in persuading people who don’t quite think of first-trimester abortions, much less the use of an IUD, as equivalent to herding millions of men, women and children into ditches to be shot or into extermination camps to be gassed). He instead compares today’s unwittingly genocidal amoralists as equivalent to pre-World War II “liberals” who were enthusiasts for eugenics in order to breed a better human race:

From Teddy Roosevelt to the Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, fears about “race suicide” and “human weeds” were common among self-conscious progressives, who saw the quest for a better gene pool as of a piece with their broader dream of human advancement.

This progressive fascination with eugenics largely ended with World War II and the horrors wrought by National Socialism. But while the West has discarded the theory of the eugenics era, the practice urged by Fisher and others — the elimination or pre-emption, through careful reproductive planning, of the weaker members of the human species — has become a more realistic possibility than it ever was in the 1920s and ’30s.

The eugenicists had very general ideas about genetics and heredity, very crude ideas about intelligence, and deeply poisonous ideas about racial hierarchies. They did not have, as we do, access to the genetic blueprints of individuals — including, most important, human beings still developing in utero, whose development can be legally interrupted by the intervention of an abortionist.

So: the “progressive” interest in genetic engineering, bred into the DNA of Planned Parenthood, loaded with racism and other hateful assumptions, was chased into the shadows by association with Nazism–but now it’s time has come! Very cleverly, Douthat takes the recent phony concerns of anti-choicers over abortion as a conspiracy against African-Americans or baby girls, takes them up a few notches, and makes them the object not of some sinister collective conspiracy by God-hating secularists who want to legalize infanticide and euthanasia, but just the horrific consequences of millions of individual choices. None of us would want a society “weeded” of “undesirables,” would we? But that’s where we are headed unless each and every woman is denied by the government of the individual opportunity to build her own corner of the great collective gas chamber:

From a rigorously pro-choice perspective, the in utero phase is a space in human development where disease and disability can be eradicated, and our impulse toward perfection given ever-freer rein, without necessarily doing any violence to human dignity and human rights.

But this is a convenient perspective for our civilization to take. Having left behind pseudoscientific racial theories, it’s easy for us to look back and pass judgment on yesterday’s eugenicists. It’s harder to acknowledge what we have in common with them.

First, a relentless desire for mastery and control, not only over our own lives but over the very marrow and sinew of generations yet unborn. And second, a belief in our own fundamental goodness, no matter to what ends our mastery is turned.

Ah yes, the great human sins of pride and hubris, the very temptations that led Germans to believe they could build a Master Race, now expressed through the arrogance of women believing they have a right to the “mastery” of their bodies. Can no one stop the madness and harness the Beast? Thank God for the good, humble, God-fearing men of the conservative movement who in their chivalry will save Eve from her death-dealing disobedient taste of the fruits of the Tree of Knowledge!

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.