Autistics als Lebensunwertes Leben
"Life unworthy of life" *

Abortion and The Eugenics of Autism

"Lebensunwertes Leben" (Life unworthy of life) was used as a descriptive slogan the Nazi T4 Program.

Things to Come

Attempts to "cure" autism, or to use the less offensive terminology, "unlock" autism, are often focused on identifying "an autism gene". More specifically, the efforts are toward determining if the child will be born with autism. This would be determined prenatally or at birth.

("The Spectrum" generally means the autism Spectrum, including autism, Asperger's syndrome (a type of autism under DSM-V), HFA, PDD and Kanner's autism (disused  [1]). Many of us are comfortable with the generic reference of "autistic".)

Abortion as a Cure

"Commercial Eugenics" involves the suggestion that it is possible to identify autistics, a significant aspect of which is prenatal identification and identification of genetic tendencies toward autism.

This is not an anti-abortion site

To the contrary, this considers the mainstream view that abortion should be freely available, including as a means for contraception. If someone is opposed to abortion for religious or other reasons, that is their decision.

Regardless of belief concerning abortion in general, abortion for sex selection and eugenics is quite another matter. This is where the sensationalist treatment of autism as a "tragic defect" is relevant. In order for eugenics to target autism, it is necessary to convince mothers that autism is a defect best treated by termination.

"... or at birth"

While early detection of autism may be useful in helping the child adapt, neonatal detection would have no particular benefits in that regard.

The problem with this is an issue raised by groups who do not distinguish between abortion and infanticide. The terminology "fœtus" is avoided in favour of "baby". The purpose is to eliminate the distinction between the two (baby and fœtus). While the intent may be anti-abortion, it is clear that a majority of the public accept the legality of abortion.

Semantics - "Aborting Babies"

The "baby" terminology may seem like a good idea to anti-abortion groups, and seems elegant in its simplicity. The problem is that it makes a basic presumption which has unintended consequences, especially when it comes to "early screening" of a genetic condition.

This use of "aborting babies" terminology can have the opposite effect, which is of concern to people opposed to infanticide.

The presumption is that the listener is at least minimally opposed to abortion. Therefore if abortion is immoral when applied to a "fœtus", it would be more immoral if applied to a "baby"; i.e., "Abortion is the same as killing babies."   The problem with these semantics is that it ignores the fact that some people will continue to consider legal abortion to be moral. If those people accept the premise ("fœtus" and "baby" are the same) the "baby" terminology suggests the converse is true -- it's okay to kill newborns because it's by definition it's just a late term abortion. (The anti-abortion movement is unwittingly advancing this concept with a series of "Jill Stanek" stories.)

Therefore when the distinction between "baby" and "fœtus" is erased, infanticide will become an accepted practice. This is particularly relevant to autism because it is unlikely that autism will be detected prenatally. Alternatively, it may be possible to detect a possibility of autism prenatally, but confirm this neonatally.

Beyond this, I leave the semantics of abortion to the R-T-L and Abortion Choice movements. What's relevant here is the result of the "Autism = Tragedy" propaganda, and purpose of the related research.

In the case of autistics, if on organization can convince parents that having an autistic child is a tragic occurrence, then we are looking at eugenics either by abortion or (more likely) at birth.

The "We Speak for Them" Industry

The "Commercial Eugenics Industry" (Autism "Cure" Organisations) are promoting the idea of a cure in terms of:
  1. "Unlocking the Autism Puzzle;
  2. Finding out what took your child away and gave you an autistic child instead;
    This has historic precedent in the "Changeling" legend. The "Changeling" concept has metamorphized into such explanations as the thimerosal vaccine controversy. (Mercury is a toxic to people in general, but there is no basis for the claim that the MMR vaccine or thimerosal can cause autism.)
  3. Finding the "Cause" of autism;
  4. A "Cure".

"Autism" Used as a Guise for Eugenics Fundraising and Eugenics Research

Autism is now the "gold standard" of eugenics research. While not directly targeting autistics (even though that is their claim), major fundraising efforts for eugenics research identifies  autism  instead of  eugenics .

More on Fundraising for Eugenics Research under the Guise of Autism Research Fundraising and identifying such research is on a separate page.

More generally, if contributing to a major autism charity, first determine what sort of research projects are being funded by the organisation. It is not uncommon for the research to include "autism" in the title, but actually be focused on genetic research.

Accommodation; Not Termination

The "Commercial Eugenics Industry" is harmful to autistics because it sidesteps accommodation with the concept of, "unlocking the Puzzle of Autism". Autism is no more a puzzle than any other personality type. It's the way the person is.

Some autistic children are "difficult". That doesn't mean they should be terminated, anymore than a "difficult" NT child should be terminated. The particular aspects attributable to autism are very easily addressed by understanding the nature of the child; more particularly by understanding the nature of some of the child's autistic traits. The "cure" is to rear the child.

... or maybe not

It is likely that a significant percentage of what is described as "autism research" is in reality eugenics research.

This is more than the mere fundraising appeal of including the word "autism" in the description. Autism has two characteristics that are interesting from the standpoint of eugenics research:

  1. Autism is 95% hereditary, and
  2. Autism is genetically multifactorial. (i.e., rather than a single genetic factor, autism is believed to be caused by multiple genetic factors.)
Autism has another advantage -- "Autism" has more appeal than "eugenics"research". People are more likely to give money for something identified with autism than for "eugenics research".

Hence we are seeing organizations describing autism fundraising but generally promoting a public perception of autism that is generally harmful to autistics. This approach to fundraising would be counterproductive if the purpose is (as stated) to support autistics.

Avoiding describing eugenics research has another benefit. There are a number of groups which, for a variety of reasons, would oppose eugenics research. This is more than a matter of fundraising; rather it is important to avoid generating very real opposition from well-organised groups focused on "sanctity of life" issues.


This Website

Abortion and Eugenics of Autism

Prenatal Testing and Prenatal Screening

Fundraising for Eugenics Research under the Guise of Autism Research Fundraising

Environmental Fad-Causes of Autism

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External Links

2008 US Presidential Campaign
The 2008 McCain campaign (US Presidential election) claimed to be anti-abortion, but pointedly has taken an official position of promotion of "early screening" when it comes to autism. Presumably, they're anti-abortion except when it comes to autism. "Early screening" for a genetic condition is essentially advocating abortion.
"As President, John McCain will work to advance federal research into autism, promote early screening..." - John McCain - Combating Autism in America

opposed to eugenics

Commercial Eugenics   (also here ( site))
From "Whose Planet Is It Anyway?"   The abortion debate that wasn't - Under the radar, pregnancies increasingly are being terminated when fetuses are prenatally diagnosed with disabilities"

Autistic Genocide Clock

examples of the "cure" approach

"Ready or not, here come genetic tests for autism"
This article indicates that, except for conditions such as Retts syndrome, the testing is limited to "hindsight" searching for a genetic cause. It also states that the information may be harmful. Nevertheless, they state:
"Genetic tests 'are absolutely ready for prime time,' says Arthur Beaudet, chair of molecular and human genetics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas."
The obvious conclusion is that "early screening" means a very serious attempt at eliminating autistics.


[1]^   Autism FAQ - History from This website was apparently written 1995-1998, but describes "Kanner's"Autism" in historical terms.

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Written 4-Feb-07 and first posted 20-Jul-08. Last revised 19-Sep-12.

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