Grass-roots Eugenics

Some Catholic bishops have been criticized for the way in which they have raised the issue of abortion in this year’s election, especially with respect to the voting records of certain Catholic politicians. Commonweal has been one of those critics (see “Communion Politics,” May 21). But if the methods of a few bishops have been counterproductive, the alarm of all the bishops over how American society values new life is well justified.

In a nation where abortion has been a fundamental constitutional right for more than thirty years, the challenge of restoring legal protection to fetal life, and warning of the broader implications of current abortion practice, is daunting. It is also urgent. The logic that justifies abortion solely as an exercise of a woman’s autonomy and privacy is subtly but persistently eroding the foundation of our beliefs in the inalienable right to life and the intrinsic value of each human life. In a culture as economically and socially competitive as ours, where abortion is seen as a routine way of managing fertility, the temptation to eugenics can become almost irresistible.

The specter of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, in which human life was bred in state-controlled hatcheries, is dismissed as paranoid fantasy by many. As an extension of individual choice, however, the...

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