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Are eugenics still having an impact today?

In this video, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson describes how processes of eugenics are still visible today.

In the video above, Rosemarie Garland-Thompson explains her view that eugenics is still alive today in various forms. She focuses largely on the idea that commerce is a driving force in shaping our contemporary ideas around which types of bodies are valued.

Eugenics is focused on ideas of “improving” the human population. One contemporary area of debate is around the ethics of abortion of seriously disabled fetuses. Some argue that it is better to prevent the birth of babies with very severe disabilities, because they cannot possibly live a good life.

Others say that using disability as a reason for abortion implies that disabled people, or the lives of disabled people, are less worthwhile than the lives of “normal” people. They assert that this simply isn’t true — that it is offensive to people with disabilities, that it undervalues the contributions that people with disability can make to society, and that it takes focus away from society’s disabling effects.

Talking points

  • What do you think? Is it useful to think of the uniform shaping of societal values by commercial forces as a eugenic undertaking?
  • To what extent are recent medical technologies — genetic screening, cosmetic improvements, bodily enhancements, etc. — perpetuating particular ideas of “normal” or even “perfectible” bodies?
  • Share your opinions with others, trying to be careful about what argument you are making and the evidence that supports it.
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Disability and a Good Life: Thinking through Disability

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