Eugenics rules in Europe, three generations after Nazism

From John Smeaton, S.P.U.C.

Daniel Blackman, one of SPUC’s researchers, has sent me his report (below) on a recent debate in the Parliamentary Assmembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on the subject of sex selection (see SPUC’s alert of 28 September). We can see that eugenics now rules in Europe, three generations after the defeat of the Nazi regime: 

“The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recently passed resolution 1829 (2011) “Prenatal Sex selection”, which aims to outlaw the practice of prenatal and preimplanation genetic screening to determine the sex of the child with a view to terminating his or her life. The resolution will be forwarded to the Committee of Ministers, representing the PACE member-states. The resolution was put forward by Doris Stump, a Swiss socialist . The issue of sex-selective abortion and embryo destruction received particular criticism in the context of Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, who are members of PACE. The resolution calls on member-states to introduce legislation and clinical guidelines that prohibit sex-selective abortion and embryo destruction.

However, the resolution contains strongly eugenic clauses that discriminate against the disabled. It states that sex-selective abortion should be prohibited:

“unless justified for the prevention of serious sex-linked genetic diseases”


“except when it is justified to avoid a serious hereditary disease”.

An example is that of Turner’s syndrome which almost exclusively affects females. It is not life-threatening, and can be managed in a way that allows girls and women to lead fulfilled lives. In Britain at least 2,290 babies were aborted on disability grounds in 2010. The recommendation attached to the resolution cites a eugenic and discriminatory section of the Oviedo Convention on Biomedicine along the same lines. Luca Volonte, leader of the European People’s Party (EPP), put forward an amendment to have one of these eugenic clauses removed, arguing that prenatal sex selection would still discriminate against girls if they were found to have a genetic disorder. The amendment was rejected, revealing that the support for abortion was greater than the support for human rights.

The debate was mistakenly framed within the context of gender equality, rather than human rights. Within that context abortion was defended as a woman’s right. As the rapporteur Doris Stump said:

“It is difficult because it touches on an area that we do not want to question: the right to have an abortion in countries where they have that. At the same time, everyone accepts that there is a problem in our societies with sex selection, or we could have a problem if we go on like this.”

The gender equality framework and eugenic clause came under criticism from Mr Rochebloine, a French EPP delegate :

“It was claimed that sex selection had its roots in cultural sex discrimination, including violence against women. The absurdity of such claims would became obvious if one turned the issue around and tried to promote female births. Men and women should be respected for their individual qualities Prenatal selection should be opposed, whether to select the sex of a baby or to avoid giving birth to a handicapped child. Condemnation of the practice should be based on an absolute conviction of children’s right to be born. Respect for that principle was the source of social cohesion and moral force.”

Mr. Vareikis, a delegate from Lithuania, rightly brought attention the issue of family as the context for children, not IVF procedures. Children must be conceived and raised in the family based on one man and one woman in marriage. A child should not become the property of the pregnant mother who can dispose of the child. He said:

“We have to change our spirit and our understanding of what the family is. The solution lies in the attitude to family life. Family is not for GDP creation: it is not for the production of boys or members of the work force. Family, as we say, is the soul of society, and we have no statistical proof that families with more boys are happier than families with more girls. It is a stupid attitude to think that families are happier with more boys. We have to have – I am sorry, I am very romantic – more children, more natural family planning, more natural love, more natural sex. We would be happy without any reports about how to ban sex selection.”

The resolution, including its eugenic clauses, was passed 81 in favour, 3 against, and 3 abstaining. The recommendation, which carries the resolution to the Committee of Ministers, was passed 82 in favour, 3 against, and 3 abstaining. Luca Volonte was one of the three delegates to vote against the recommendation.

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9 Responses to Eugenics rules in Europe, three generations after Nazism

  1. toadspittle says:

    “We can see that eugenics now rules in Europe, three generations after the defeat of the Nazi regime: “
    Probably a pity Hitler lost, really. Things could hardly be much worse, could they?
    Although we have no “statistical proof” of that.

    Likewise“…we have no statistical proof that families with more boys are happier than families with more girls.” drones some Lithuanian buffoon.

    How could anyone, ever, obtain such proof, statistical or otherwise?

    As if that was what the issue was about, anyway.


  2. kathleen says:

    There is already an alarming imbalance between males and females in many countries (notably China, India, South Korea, and many ex-Communist countries) where boys are greatly preferred to girls.
    See this detailed article from the Economist that examines some of its disastrous effects:

    If you can stomach reading through the horrifying first story in the article – a new baby girl is dunked into a bucket to die whilst the reporter was in the house! – further down it describes why male births are rising so fast, compared to female ones.

    Until the 1980s people in poor countries could do little about this preference: before birth, nature took its course. But in that decade, ultrasound scanning and other methods of detecting the sex of a child before birth began to make their appearance. These technologies changed everything. Doctors in India started advertising ultrasound scans with the slogan “Pay 5,000 rupees ($110) today and save 50,000 rupees tomorrow” (the saving was on the cost of a daughter’s dowry). Parents who wanted a son, but balked at killing baby daughters, chose abortion in their millions.

    The use of sex-selective abortion was banned in India in 1994 and in China in 1995. It is illegal in most countries (though Sweden legalised the practice in 2009). But since it is almost impossible to prove that an abortion has been carried out for reasons of sex selection, the practice remains widespread. An ultrasound scan costs about $12, which is within the scope of many—perhaps most—Chinese and Indian families. In one hospital in Punjab, in northern India, the only girls born after a round of ultrasound scans had been mistakenly identified as boys, or else had a male twin.”


  3. kathleen says:

    From the same article:

    Throughout human history, young men have been responsible for the vast preponderance of crime and violence—especially single men in countries where status and social acceptance depend on being married and having children, as it does in China and India. A rising population of frustrated single men spells trouble…………
    And, according to the World Health Organisation, female suicide rates in China are among the highest in the world (as are South Korea’s). Suicide is the commonest form of death among Chinese rural women aged 15-34; young mothers kill themselves by drinking agricultural fertilisers, which are easy to come by. The journalist Xinran Xue thinks they cannot live with the knowledge that they have aborted or killed their baby daughters.”

    P.S. I know the subject is Eugenics in Europe, not China, India etc., but boys are still preferred to girls even here (though less so) and given a choice there would be many discarded baby girl foetuses by those who are not against abortion.


  4. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Yes K, in India at least there is a horrifying mismatch betwen male and female births. Scans are taken and a percentage of girl children are aborted. It is a crying, painful shame.

    Recently in India some girls took the unusual step of changing their names. They had been given the name “Unwanted”. Really,that, by their parents. Better than being aborted for being female, but it would make you weep.

    It is not typical however, and we must not demonise a whole culture based on this. Or we Europeans, on various demonisations, would hang our heads in shame.


  5. kathleen says:

    No, quite right Mr. Whippy; it is certainly not my intention to ‘demonise’ the great and ancient cultures of India, China, or any country for that matter. I was only trying to point out how selecting the sex of the unborn child by discarding the unwanted one (invariably female) can have disastrous outcomes……… besides being a horrible crime.

    A lovely post the other day from the Hermeneutic of Continuity about the training of scanners for the Good Counsel Network:


  6. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Yes K, I didnt mean that you demonised these cultures; I truly meant ‘we’.


  7. teresa says:

    Kathleen, sadly, infanticide was nothing new in the Chinese culture. As late as in the early 20th. century, mothers used to drown the “superfluous” daughters, Somerset Maugham noted this custom in his book “On a Chinese Screen”, European Missionaries built orphanages and it was from this time point that people started to abandon this ancient custom. Today, abortion is legal, but infanticide is a crime and will be punished.

    Btw. the custom of infanticide was not restricted to Asia, the old Germanic people also drowned unwanted babies. Also among the ancient Romans and Greek, infanticide was not considered as something bad, I heard that ancient Romans also sold occasionally unwanted children as slaves.


  8. kathleen says:

    Dear Teresa,
    Yes, I do realise that infanticide is as old as mankind itself, and certainly not the domain of China or any one culture. All I was trying to show was how modern technology with scanners has enabled the sex of the unborn child to be known soon after conception. This will automatically make it a lot easier for babies of the ‘wrong’ sex to be aborted well before birth, and so ‘solve’ the problem and give the parents another go at producing the desired male heir. It’s happening in many places. With the normal worldwide balance between boy and girl babies being 103 to 106 boys for every 100 girls born (which levels out to be pretty equal by the time of puberty) a large swing in this balance, as many as 130 boys for every 100 girls sometimes, will naturally bring a lot of problems in the future…… (and the immediate tragic death of many aborted baby girls).

    I have a great love and admiration for the millions of Chinese Catholics – growing in numbers in spite of the imposed governmental restrictions on the practice of their Faith – and it would be a great idea to have a post on the Catholic Church in China one day. Any offers?


  9. teresa says:

    Dear Kathleen, I understood what you intended to say and agree with you. The discrimination of girls in Asian cultures is still a serious problem. I only wanted to add what was coming across my mind when I last read this thread.


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