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Int J Health Serv. 1986;16(2):227-42.

Eugenics and prenatal testing.


Prejudices against people with disabilities, poor people, and immigrants during the nineteenth century generated a science of "race improvement" called eugenics. In the United States, a number of eugenic measures were enacted early in this century, but it was in Nazi Germany that eugenics flourished under the name of racial hygiene (Rassenhygiene). In the guise of furthering the health of the German people, German scientists and physicians initially designed programs of sterilization. Next came euthanasia and finally mass extermination of "lives not worth living." Remembering this history, many German women oppose the new technical developments in prenatal diagnosis because they see them as yet another way to specify what kinds of people are and are not fit to inhabit the world. This paper tries to place the new technologies in the context of eugenics and to point out some of the ways in which the new, supposedly liberating, choices in fact limit women's control over our lives.

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