Eugenics

Eugenics refers to beliefs and practices aimed at producing human beings or populations with preferred or “better” characteristics. In the early twentieth century, eugenic ideas were popular in many countries and across the political spectrum, and provided scientific cover for practices and policy decisions targeting society’s most vulnerable communities. In the United States, these included the forced sterilization of tens of thousands of people considered “unfit,” stringent immigration restrictions, and public policies that encouraged “fitter families” to produce more children. In Germany, the Nazis used similar concepts to justify their extermination of Jews, people with disabilities, and other groups. A century later, many activists, bioethicists, and other scholars are concerned that a new form of eugenics may be on the horizon as market dynamics and individual choice, rather than government policies, drive decisions about our use of human genetic technologies.


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