In Vitro Fertilisation and the History of Eugenics in America – No

Although most Americans think of Nazi Germany when they hear the word “eugenics” the ideology and practice began in the United States in the early 1900s.  Beginning in California with Dr. Paul Popenoe, Paul Gosney, and Charles M. Goethe, it soon gained popularity with the nation’s elite as an offshoot of Social Darwinism.   Eugenics became acceptable when it was picked up by the rich and powerful organizations of the Carnegie Institution, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Harriman Railroad magnates.   It was the Rockefeller Foundation that set up a eugenics program in pre-WWII Germany and actually funded Josef Mengele’s research before he went to Auschwitz.  In other words, if it weren’t for the popularity and funding of the American eugenics program then, perhaps, Nazi Germany may not have been so cruel. 

One of the more notable individuals in favor of eugenics in America was  Margaret Sanger,.the founder of Planned Parenthood.  She published articles such as,  “Some Moral Aspects of Eugenics” (June 1920), “The Eugenic Conscience” (February 1921), “The purpose of Eugenics” (December 1924), “Birth Control and Positive Eugenics” (July 1925),and “Birth Control: The True Eugenics” (August 1928).  She openly admitted that she believed that the poor and less educated were “unfit” and should not reproduce.  She formed the Negro Project because blacks not only tended to be poor and under-educated at the time but were also considered racially inferior by many of the white elite.  (Here is a Mike Wallace interview with Margaret Sanger in 1957, long after eugenics was considered an “evil” ideology). 

In vitro fertilisation (IVF) can be considered a continuation of the early eugenics.  Although it may seem as though it’s merely an option for couples having difficulty getting pregnant it is only affordable for the wealthier Americans.  The poor and working class have many inexpensive birth control methods available to them and, thanks to Planned Parenthood, those who are poor enough can get them for free.  However, if the problem is that they cannot conceive they have few options. 

Most insurance companies do not cover IVF although some companies do provide additional infertility coverage for an added cost.  The basic cost of the procedure is around $15,000 plus medications.  IVF does not always take the first time and must be repeated for the same prohibitive cost.  Many times the procedure ends up in more than one viable fetus which then causes additional expense.  Once born, these multiple children often need extended medical attention that can increase the cost again.  The Mastera twins ended up costing their parents more than $1.2 million. And that’s just the cost of the birth not the cost of raising multiple children. 

The original intent of eugenics was to improve the human racial stock by selective breeding.  This has always been translated by the wealthy to mean that they are the best breeding stock simply because they have more money and power in this society.  Because today’s new reproductive technology is not a vailable to everybody regardless of income level it is just one more chapter in the History of Eugenics in the United States.