Is in Vitro Fertilization the Beginning of American Eugenics – No

In vitro fertilization, or IVF, is not the beginning of eugenics in America.

IVF cannot, strictly speaking, be considered eugenics at the present time.  Eugenics is about choosing the “good genes” for the next generation, for example, breeding with an eye to making sure the descendants are stronger, smarter, or better-looking.  Currently, parents conceiving with IVF do not have a choice to make sure all their children have a certain hair color or a high IQ, because the technology does not permit it.  All they are doing is increasing their chances of having children at all.  This is not eugenics.

Of course, even if IVF could be considered eugenics, it would not even come close to being the first time America has endorsed the concept.  America has a history of eugenics that many of its citizens do not know about.  Before the second world war, America worked with Germany on several eugenics schemes.  Many countries around the world were on board with the idea of breeding the strongest and smartest, and preventing the weak from breeding, so that the human race would continue to evolve in the right direction.  When the full monstrosity of Hitler’s plans became known (that is, when he started slaughtering innocent people), America and other countries rightfully distances themselves from Hitler’s Germany and his eugenics plans.

That, however, was not the end of eugenics in America.

When the birth control pill was invented, many more white women could afford to take it than black women, as there was a huge economic disparity based on race.  The American president at the time addressed the nation, pleading with white women to have more children, as the population of black people was increasing, and white people, who used birth control more often, were not having “enough” children to keep the country white.  This is eugenics.  Purposefully controlling which populations breed in order to create chosen descendants is eugenics.

And it didn’t stop there.  As recently as the 1970s, people of “undesirable” races and those who were mentally challenged were sterilized against their will in the United States.  Women and teenage girls would go in for surgery, to have an appendix removed, for example, and they would be sterilized while unconscious, without their knowledge or consent.  Many of these unwilling victims never found out about their sterilization until years later, when they sought out fertility specialists to find out why they could not conceive a child.

Asking whether in vitro fertilization is the beginning of American eugenics is a foolish question.  There is documented history of politicians trying to decrease the birth rate of certain races going back to the 1930s.  As mentioned previously, IVF cannot even be considered to be eugenics at this point.  The practice of eugenics, however, has certainly occurred in the past, and was even openly endorsed by high level politicians. 

Many people don’t realize that the concept of eugenics had a legitimate “heyday” from the 1930s to about the 1970s, and that we have now moved away from that paradigm to a more open-minded concept of allowing people to have children if they want to.

When looking at the facts, it should be obvious that there is no way one can call IVF the “beginning” of American eugenics.