On Saturday, October 16, Vermont Speaker of the House Jill Krowinski (D-Burlington) and Senate Pro Tem Becca Balint (D-Windham) formally apologized at the Vermont State House for eugenics legislation approved by the Legislature of almost a century ago. Below, a Jericho mother of a Down Syndrome child says eugenics is alive and well in Proposal 5, the proposed amendment to enshrine in the Vermont Constitution the legalization of unlimited abortion – including to prevent the birth of Down Syndrome children. – Editor
By Eileen Haupt
No person, “ought to be holden by law, to serve any person, as a servant, slave, or apprentice…”
With these words in the Vermont Constitution in 1777, our “brave little state” (though then, a republic) prohibited slavery within its borders. These first Vermonters accomplished something that even the men who penned “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence were not able to do—abolish slavery in its founding document.
Almost a century later, Vermonters proved their anti-slavery principles with their blood. According to a recent Vermont Digger article, Vermont’s per capita fatality rate in the Civil War was the second highest among the Union states.
But somehow, by the early 20th century, Vermonters took their eyes off the ball and failed to treat with equality those who were poor, disabled, or of French-Canadian and Abenaki heritage. Promoted by the academia elite, especially, UVM Professor Henry F. Perkins, the Vermont Legislature passed legislation targeting these Vermonters for sterilization (many involuntary) to prevent their “procreation.”
It is important to underscore that promoters of this eugenic legislation were not considered radical. Perkins was very well educated and highly respected. The legislature, of course, was duly elected by Vermont residents.
Fast forward almost a hundred years, our State is finally coming to terms with its eugenic past. Just last month, Middlebury College removed Governor John Mead from the name of its chapel, because of his promotion of eugenic policies.
Earlier this year, the Vermont Legislature passed a joint resolution, apologizing for past “State-sanctioned eugenics policies and practices.” A formal public apology by the legislature is scheduled this weekend.
It is easy to offer apologies for past actions of others; more difficult is to recognize the same egregious errors in our own actions, in the here and now.
The legislature seems unable to recognize that enshrining unrestricted abortion (without naming it!) into the Vermont Constitution is committing the same state-sanctioned violation of human rights for which it is apologizing.
Like slavery, eugenic policies fail to recognize the dignity of the human person. They both violate the simple, founding principle, set forth in the Declaration of Independence:
“…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
In both slavery and in sterilization policies, the victims were dehumanized, in order to rationalize the abuse done towards them.
This is exactly what is being done to innocent preborn human beings. They, too, are dehumanized, in order to justify the violence necessary to end their lives by abortion. And now our legislature wants this dehumanization and violence enshrined in our Constitution, using the amendment language of Proposal 5.
Not only would the proposed amendment enshrine unrestricted abortion into the Constitution, it would also enshrine eugenic abortion into the Constitution.
It is routine practice for prenatal testing to be used to target babies with Down syndrome for abortion.
A 2012 study estimates 74 percent of babies prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome in the U.S. are aborted. Another study (updated annually), estimates that “in recent years, there were 33 percent fewer babies with Down syndrome than could have been born, absent elective terminations.”
Abortion is reducing the number of babies born with Down syndrome each year by one-third! And yet, this eugenic practice is what the legislature wants enshrined in the state Constitution.
All the while, they are apologizing for the eugenic policies of the past.
The joint resolution resolves, “That the General Assembly recognizes that further legislative action should be taken to address the continuing impact of State-sanctioned eugenics polices and related practices of disenfranchisement, ethnocide, and genocide.”
A good start to “further legislative action” would be to scrap Proposal 5, putting a screeching halt to enshrining state-sanctioned eugenic abortion into the Vermont Constitution. A second step would be to do what many states in the country are doing—defending the lives of babies with Down syndrome by passing legislation that prohibits abortion from being used for eugenic purposes.
Unless this legislature’s policies respect the inherent dignity of the human person—in all human beings—and adhere to America’s founding principle, that we are all, “created equal” and “endowed with certain unalienable rights,” future legislatures will someday be apologizing on their behalf.
Eileen Haupt is the proud mother of a beautiful young lady with Down syndrome named Sadie. She is board member of the Vermont Right to Life Committee.