Friday 20 July 2012

Sterilization of "mental defectives" defeated by Parliament 81 years ago tomorrow

81 years ago tomorrow a Bill for the sterilisation of certain categories of "mental patient" was proposed in the House of Commons in 1931 by Labour MP Archibald Church as a Ten Minute Rule Bill. Church moved that leave be given to bring in a Bill to “enable mental defectives to undergo sterilizing operations or sterilizing treatment upon their own application, or that of their spouses or parents or guardians; and for purposes connected therewith.”

In moving his motion, Church claimed it was necessary to stop the reproduction of those "who are in every way a burden to their parents, a misery to themselves and in my opinion a menace to the social life of the community". He added he would be failing in his duty to the House if he did not state that in his opinion, this Bill was “merely a first step in order that the community as a whole should be able to make an experiment on a small scale so that later on we may have the benefit of the results and experience gained in order to come to conclusions before bringing in a Bill for the compulsory sterilisation of the unfit.”

Opposition to the Bill was led by Dr Hyacinth Morgan (Labour MP for Camberwell Norty) who said:
“I rise to ask the House not to give leave for the introduction of this Bill. The House has heard a harrowing tale which is mostly moonshine. The Bill is said to be in advance of public opinion, but it is really in advance of common sense and ordinary sanity....If once the principle of maiming or mutilation is admitted, not for the benefit or health of the individual but for the good of others or the State acting for others, there is no brake to sliding down the slippery slope leading to the swamp of State penalisation, where we may get rid of all those obnoxious to the State. Those preaching subversive doctrines may have their tongues cut out. Those writing subversive doctrines may have their hands cut off. The State (those temporarily in power) are the dictators of limb and life. The eugenicist upon a pinnacle of intellectual snobbery, looking down upon the less fortunate mental defective, may gradually raise the standard of mental deficiency and push more and more citizens into the maelstrom of the mentally-maimed."
Dr Morgan concluded by appealing to the House to “refuse to give leave to introduce this pagan, anti-democratic, anti-Christian, unethical Bill.”

The House then divided and Major Church’s proposed Bill was defeated by 167 votes to 89. It is interesting to note that future Prime Minister Anthony Eden (then a back bencher) voted in favour of the Bill.

The debate can be seen here.

And in case anyone thinks that such blatant eugenic thinking in political circles is a thing of the past ... completely to the contrary, it has become part and parcel of the British political establishment, and now with lethal consequences on a grand scale:
  • In the UK 92% of babies prenatally diagnosed with Down's syndrome are killed by abortion. This has remained constant since 1989 when the National Down's Syndrome Cytogenetic Register began. Under the UK Abortion Act, a child deemed to have a disability can be aborted up to birth. These are sad and utterly unacceptable facts.
  • As recently as 18th October 2005, Caroline Flint, a junior minister of health under a previous government, told Parliament that a risk of repealing the Abortion Act 1967 (and thus, inter alia, the risk of making the killing of disabled unborn babies unlawful) would be an annual cost to the country of £5 million for the "cost to care for disabled children" (See Partial Regulatory Assessment of The Prohibition of Abortion (England and Wales) Bill).  David Cameron, meanwhile, the current UK prime minister, has made it clear that he supports abortion up to birth for disabled babies.
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