Who can derail the high-speed eugenics train?

SIR – Sally Phillips asks, in her excellent and thought-provoking documentary on Down’s syndrome, whether “choice is always the wonderful thing it’s cracked up to be”, and she wonders “where all these individual choices are going to take us”; Madeleine Teahan concludes that we are travelling on a “high-speed eugenics train” (Comment, October 14).

She is right to be worried: Professor David Galton of the Eugenics Society’s successor body, the Galton Institute, in his book In Our Own Image: Eugenics and the Genetic Modification of People (2001), deplored historic abuses, but referred to abortion as the simplest of eugenic techniques, and saw the future of eugenics as based on choice.

Nobody is forced to have an abortion, and each abortion is undertaken for individual reasons, but all these individual choices help to deliver a medically approved, state-funded but self-imposed eugenics programme, under a virtuous patina of feminist choice.

Families with disabled children are already subjected to public disapproval for choosing not to abort, and the new, more accurate pre-natal test to be introduced by the NHS will make matters worse. But this too is part of the eugenics project; in 1934, Eugenics Society secretary CP Blacker looked forward to the creation of a “eugenic conscience” – public disapproval of mental “unfitness” leading to self-imposed eugenics. The Eugenics Society was one of the first supporters of abortion in the 1930s, kept the campaign going through its “lean years” and had significant influence on the 1967 Abortion Act.

We must hope and pray that Sally Phillips and her son Ollie will help to derail the eugenics train.

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