Forced Sterilization-In the Name of Science
“The needle belongs to the hand of the doctor”
Viktor Brack Head of Nazi Germany’s Euthenasia Program 1939
One the most disturbing contributions to the horrors of Nazi Germany was that made by the scientific and academic community, without which the industrialized magnitude of atrocities could not have been realized. It was the significant cooperation from demographers, anthropologists, eugenicists, and biologists, doctors, surgeons and universities which enabled the Nazis to organize and apply its notorious 1933 ‘Sterilization Laws’, under which those deemed by the state as being “inferior” were forcibly sterilized. It was academic study, experimentation and willing scientific collaboration which enabled such medical atrocities to be conducted:
“Castration by x-ray, however, is not only relatively cheap, but can also be performed on many thousands in the shortest time. I think that at this time it is already irrelevant whether the people in question become aware of having been castrated after some weeks or months once they feel the effects…Heil Hitler! Yours, Viktor Brack.”
Considerable funds were invested into securing methods of sterilizations which would meet the genocidal demands of the Nazi regime. Reich Leader SS Heinrich Himmler determined to develop a cheap and time efficient program of sterilization targeting those considered ‘enemies of Germany’ in Himmler’s words, “not only to defeat the enemy but also to exterminate him.”
“If on the basis of this research, it were possible to produce a drug, which after a relatively short time effects an imperceptible sterilization on human beings, then we would have a new powerful weapon at our disposal.” (correspondence from Doctor Pokorny to Himmler October, 1941)
If ever history has cautioned that science, as an active servant of the state; indifferent to any sense of ethical responsibility, blinded by the glamor of academic and career advancement, is capable of relegating human rights beneath ideological and scientific goals, surely the harrowing experience of Nazi-Germany provides a chilling lesson. One that has not been heeded.
The horrors of forced sterilizations, as dictated by a totalitarian government is not an historical subject, it continues, most notably as a major element of communist China’s coercive birth-control program A fact noted by a number of human rights and medical organizations, including Amnesty International and the British Medical Association. The United States State Department and US Congressional Committee on China has acknowledged that coercion, including forced sterilizations, feature in China’s population control activities. Detailed reports continue to emerge from China, Tibet and East Turkestan which reveal such medical violations are taking place, not as some form of isolated abuse, but as part of a centrally engineered program, with the support, authorization and financing of the communist Chinese authorities.
As with many social and medical scientists, consumed by the correctness of their scientific dogma, who rationalized their support of the Nazis as being for some great human good (while contributing to measures which resulted in a brutalizing human misery for untold numbers of innocent people across Europe), there are academics today who appear comfortable in either denying, excusing or supporting communist China’s population policies.
Such individuals no doubt have prominent and lucrative roles within bodies like the United Nations Fund for Population or International Planned Parenthood Federation, both of which continue their work inside China, despite being acutely aware of the highly coercive nature of the program. Once again ideology, in this case a blind attachment to reducing population levels, is considered of such sanctity that it can happily co-exist with a program in which women across China are forcibly-sterilized. Such is the power of rationalization that the most harrowing of abuses can be argued away or ignored, lest they inconvenience the magnum opus.
The goal of population control continues to exert a hypnotic influence over environmental, social and medical science. Even though its original 19th Century Malthusian theory has been somewhat discredited, overtaken by advancements in agriculture, food production, bio-technology, transport, education and global economics. However a movement, termed neo-Malthusians, are seeking to resuscitate the notion of reducing population levels by linking population with concerns for the environment.
This development has gained some notable environmentalists, ecologists and naturalists including David Attenborough an iconic natural-history presenter on the BBC, who has become a patron of the Optimum Population Trust
Upon accepting his position he is reported as stating that: “I’ve never seen a problem that wouldn’t be easier to solve with fewer people, or harder, and ultimately impossible, with more.” (BBC News Channel April 13, 2009)
Others have joined the chorus for population reduction and are prepared it would seem to sacrifice basic human rights, arguing that the greater objective of saving the planet can surely accommodate suffering and abuse.
“We need to ask what is the greater threat to human welfare: the possibility that humane efforts to address population growth might be abused, or our ongoing failure to act to prevent hundreds of millions, even billions, dying as a result of global ecological collapse? ” (emphasis added)
(Doctor John Feeney BBC News Channel February 2, 2009)
This panic-inducing prophecy, using subjective, emotionally-loaded language and carefully saturated with a sense of impending catastrophe barely conceals a willingness to tolerate abuses. We have of course been here before courtesy of Paul Ehrlich’s ‘Population Bomb’ another discredited theory Paul Ehrlich’s ‘Population Bomb’ another discredited theory based upon scare-tactics and visions of an overpopulated planet spinning out-of control, unless drastic action was taken to limit and reduce the global population.
“Yes, there have been past abuses in the name of “population control”. There have been abuses of health care and education too, but the idea of reacting by abandoning any of these causes is absurd. We can learn from past abuses, reducing the likelihood of fresh problems arising in the future. In fact, those working on population issues have done so. Today, they recognise that the methods with the best track records of reducing population growth are, by their nature, respectful and promoting of human rights…..”. (emphasis added) (Ibid)
What the author of those misleading comments ignores is the fact that serious human rights violations and medical abuses are taking place on a massive scale within communist China’s population program. These involve a series of coercive measures that trample over reproductive freedoms and other basic human rights in which respect for individual freedoms is non-existent. However the nature of John Feeney’s remarks invite speculation that he may not be troubled by the dark-side of China’s efforts to reduce population levels?
“Some activists insist acting to influence population growth infringes on human rights; they maintain that it is best to leave the problem alone. Let’s dispense with this confused notion right now….” (Ibid)
Maybe that perspective can be indulged within the comfortable world of academic discussion, however there is nothing confused about the trauma inflicted upon Chinese, Tibetan and Uyghur women as a result of forcible sterilization no ambiguity that human rights are being grossly violated by China’s coercive birth-control policies. In an effort to misrepresent, these comments fail to recognize that respecting human rights does not require the abandonment of humane, informed and rights-based population measures (perhaps those of an ideological persuasion or holding some religious position may call for an end to population control) but surely such social-engineering should be based upon respect of individual rights and operate through informed education, freedom-of-choice, human rights principles and reproductive freedoms, as contained in international agreements such as CEDAW and the Beijing Declaration. Article 16(e) of CEDAW specifically guarantees women the rights:
“to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the . . . means to enable them to exercise these rights.”
“the right to have control and decide freely and responsibly…matters related to… reproductive health, free of coercion…and violence ” (Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, para 96).
The troubling fact, which supporters of population control choose to ignore, is that in the world’s largest population control program such principles are not applied or respected and are replaced by coercion and medical atrocities.
Social scientists with an interest or specialism in China are often possessed with a conflict of interest with respect to this issue, exacerbated by value conflicts and ethical dilemmas which are rationalized away or simply ignored. One wonders if this may well serve to explain their continued reticence. The Chinese authorities are acutely sensitive about the more odious aspects of their population program and any reference to, or acknowledgement of coercion, can lead to academics in this area becoming persona non grata.
Research opportunities are denied, access to demographic data withheld, and contact with Chinese colleagues closed. Yet those who practice self-censorship to avoid China’s sensitivities have not only abandoned their intellectual and academic freedom but are open to speculation that they have become willing propagandists for China’s coercive birth-control program. It would appear that communist China continues to be held in great esteem by those concerned with family-planning, population studies and the environment who, by their rationalizations, excuses, omissions and gratuitous conclusions seem shamelessly self-serving and lacking in basic integrity. While their silence is a worrying compliance with medical atrocities not dissimilar to the mandatory sterilizations passed out by Nazi-Germany’s Eugenic Courts.
Beware the authoritative voice of science.