You what?

Women in the Netherlands who are deemed by the state to be unfit mothers should be sentenced to take contraception for a prescribed period of two years, according to a draft bill before the Dutch parliament.

The proposed legislation would further punish parents who defied it by taking away their newborn infant. "It targets people who have been the subject of judicial intervention because of their bad parenting," explained the author of the bill Marjo Van Dijken of the socialist PvDA. "If someone refuses the contraception and becomes pregnant, the child must be taken away directly after birth."

You what?

You can fuck right off matey: there is no version of society to which this is a solution.

I must admit that it shocked me that this law was the brainchild of a socialist. As a confounded psychiatrist friend who deals with troubled children put it, this bill is vaguely reminiscent of the eugenics and sterilisation programmes of the fascist era.

Why would that surprise you? The fascists were of course socialists, if of the national kind. And Sweden continued such eugenics programmes into the 1970s. Indeed, the eugenics movement very much grew out of the socialist movement as broadly defined.


From its inception eugenics was supported by prominent people, including H. G. Wells, Emile Zola, George Bernard Shaw, John Maynard Keynes, William Keith Kellogg, Adolf Hitler and Margaret Sanger.[4][5][6] G. K. Chesterton was an early critic of the philosophy of eugenics, expressing this opinion in his book, Eugenics and Other Evils. Eugenics became an academic discipline at many colleges and universities, and received funding from many sources.[7] Three International Eugenics Conferences presented a global venue for eugenicists with meetings in 1912 in London, and in 1921 and 1932 in New York. Eugenics\’ scientific reputation started to tumble in the 1930s, a time when Ernst Rüdin began incorporating eugenic rhetoric into the racial policies of Nazi Germany. The Swedish Social Democratic Party created the world\’s second largest eugenics program, which they continued until 1975.

23 thoughts on “You what?”

  1. I wonder if they will try this on Catholics or, more explosively, Muslims.

    Whether on lampposts or windmills (a wonderful notion), Hang them, Hang them all, and Hang them high.

  2. Oh FFS I just lost my comment.

    Basically the eugenics comparison isn’t valid.

    This is the reversible loss of reproductive rights to those proven to already be negligent parents. Akin to the difference between jailing someone for a crime or executing them on the presumption that they might one day commit one.

    If you believe that abusive parents should go to jail, which naturally eliminates their ability to effectively parent, then you’re already somewhere on this spectrum of opinion.

    There’s loads of simpler and less illiberal solutions to reckless reproduction than this one and many that don’t presume the state is such a great judge of character or the future. So, no, I’m not supporting the proposition but I think people are being reflexive rather than rational here.

    BTW, whilst I appreciate your outrage is sincere, Tim, but I will remind you that you’ve been wrong on these matters before. For example months ago you went ape about this case:

    And then this happened:

    It’s not all about the state stealing people’s rights, sometimes its about balancing the rights of parents and kids.

  3. Philip Thomas.

    There’s always at least 1 apologist, which is how these sick minded people get into power in the first place.

  4. How in the name of all that is holy can the eugenics comparison not be valid? Eugenics is selective breeding enforced by government diktat, this proposal is for selective breeding enforced by….you guessed it, the government! Reversible or not, it’s a staggering intrusion into people’s lives. Yet another example of why socialists should never be trusted.

  5. Okay, that was harsh. Apologies, but I hate your suggestion that I was an apologist for this proposal. What I’m trying to point out is that the firm ideological stance that libertarians, of which I broadly count myself, take on matters of the parents, the state and kids is frequently inconsistent. They hate the state taking kids but surely children are not parents’ property to do with as they see fit, including abuse. Children have their own rights that the state should protect. I mean what else is the state for if not the protection of rights.

    Consider that if you send someone to jail for any crime, you may not intend to undermine their reproductive rights but ipso facto you do because they’ll be locked-up in a single-sex establishment. Indeed, the whole concept of imprisonment is based on the notion that the state has the rights under certain circumstances to deprive people of their liberty when they have been proven to use it to harm others. Parents harming their kids undermines their rights to the kid, so does it undermine their rights to additional children?

    I’m simply saying there’s a really interesting debate here but people just tend to be glib regarding it.

    So what I’m asking is, if we feel that reproductive rights are inviolable in a way that other rights are not, then why is that? And why do we already override them via imprisonment. Should we be having mixed-sex prisons, for example?

    It’s all very well getting all principled on this but please outline exactly how you’ve managed to keep a consistent pattern of them…because I’ll be honest I’m struggling here.

    I think the failure of people who oppose this to clearly articulate why it is wrong is what plays into the hands of proposals like this.

    And just to reiterate, I bloody reject the proposal, O.K.

  6. Colin, because it isn’t an attempt to “improve” the genetic stock of the population for one thing. However, I agree that the lessons of history show that any interference of this sort into reproduction will lead to gross injustices. Besides eugenics is a loaded term. Selective abortion on the basis of disability is eugenics in the true sense but it is legal in the UK and many people would argue that it is within a mother’s rights.

  7. Of course it’s Eugenic. ‘More from the fit, less from the unfit’. Just because the pill didn’t allow for eugenic punishment up to the 40s (when eugenics went underground due to the bad rap for being the main plank of Nazi philosophy and policy), doesn’t mean this is not eugenic ‘punishment’.

    Parents who have been found to be ‘unfit’ ? What the hell is that? Did they commit a crime or not? If so then they go to jail or they do community service until their debt to society is paid. Did they abuse their own children? If so then they also lose custody of those children who must be placed somewhere safe. All child abusers need to be monitored. But ALL criminals have the right to ‘serve their time’, to complete whatever sentence they have been given and walk away ‘debt paid’. Of course, for the eugenics movement and its modern adherents some crimes are hereditary. So pregnancy is also a ‘crime’. Compulsory sterilisation is just waiting in the wings, panting to take the stage again. (As it keeps doing btw. Check out ‘The Right to Reproduce’ by Steven Trombley.)

  8. Philip, to my mind the obvious difference between selective abortion & enforced contraception is that one is the choice of the individual, and the other is the imposition of the state’s choice upon the individual.
    You are right though, ‘eugenics’ is one of those words (like ‘racist’ or ‘nazi’) that tends to get in the way of serious debate.

  9. “So what I’m asking is, if we feel that reproductive rights are inviolable in a way that other rights are not, then why is that? And why do we already override them via imprisonment. Should we be having mixed-sex prisons, for example?”

    My body is mine, not the state’s. Put me in prison and it is still mine.

    Do we have the right to reproduce as and when we like? I see it as a freedom that you would be giving up by breaking the law.

  10. Actually, Sara, I find the notion of paying one’s “debt to society” as a crude expression of a far more complex truth. Can you build up credit to society and then commit crimes? Anyway, that’s a separate debate. I’ll check your book recommendation if I get the time.

    Agreed, Colin, there is a big difference between the state deciding and the individual.

    BTW, in all of this, I’ve been assuming in my comments that these parents referred to have been proven as criminally negligent or abusive. That’s whom the bill is referring to, isn’t it?

  11. ” I find the notion of paying one’s “debt to society” as a crude expression of a far more complex truth.” How very restrained of you, Philip; I might have declared it witless drivel.

  12. We might accept the notion that criminally abusive parents should not be allowed to have any more children.

    But that was before Icelandic bankers became terrorists.

  13. “Paying one’s debt to society’ may well be witless drivel but it also happens to be the basis of most of the justice systems of the world. The basic premise is that for each crime committed there is a penalty that must be paid. When that penalty has been determined and imposed on someone who has been found guilty of the crime, it represents the ‘debt’ owed by the criminal. (Forgive us our ‘debts’ as we forgive our ‘debtors’.) It is designed and intended as a finite as well as final penalty. Unless the penalty is a life sentence or a death sentence it is not and was never intended to be paid for again and again and again. Whether we agree with this philosophy or not, that is the system of justice we have.

    There is often a yawning chasm between what each of us considers to be just and what the law prescribes. But the law is actually based upon fundamental principles – such as the principle that the guilty pay once for a crime and thereafter that debt is discharged.

  14. Sara, it’s a catchy phrase that has been reverse-engineered into explaining the processes of justice. For instance, how does one pay one’s “debt to society” by residing in an institution that costs society to run? It’s not that I disagree with the point you’re trying to make about “finite and final” penalties, it’s that the terminology you are using – that everyone, myself included, have used – lead to logical equivalences that are not appropriate. As I said though, I think this is off-subject.

  15. I think it is always worth making distinctions. We use language in an amazingly woolly way, each assigning our own definitions and values to terms like justice, crime and penalty and then getting into often heated debates where we are all making completely different assumptions without realizing it!

    So a discussion about whether putting someone in jail would be or should be construed as ‘paying one’s debt to society’ might be off topic here. That’s a discussion about whether we agree that the established method of ‘paying the debt’ (prison) is adequate, reasonable or appropriate (or even logical!) i.e. whether the system requires reform, which is, as you say, another topic.

    But establishing the fundamental principle that our system of law presently recognizes a limited and once for all ‘payment’ of criminal ‘ debt and that this payment is presently exacted largely through incarceration is more important than it might seem.

    The right to be tried and punished once and once only for any crime is a basic human right – up there with habeas corpus. When you start applying vague labels to people, like ‘unfit’ anything and then applying invasive extra judicial penalties, you are moving into an arena in which the clear distinctions of rights and responsibilities, law and its safeguards, crime and punishment simply dissolve.

    Social engineering has always been a mainstay of the eugenic movement. ‘Criminals’ exist in that philosophy rather than people who have committed a crime (an attitude which has bled into mainstream consciousness so effectively that few of us notice it). That is a very, very important distinction indeed.

    Our justice system deals with the crime, its consequences and the appropriate penalties. Eugenics/social engineering targets the people it classifies as criminals – genetic ‘criminals’, intellectual ‘criminals’, socially undesirable ‘criminals’. Traditional justice confers the same human dignity on all persons and categorizes only their actions, their crimes. It assumes that we all know and are all capable of distinguishing right from wrong and that, once we have paid for our wrongdoings, we may do better in future. Eugenics assumes a sliding scale of human-ness – from best to worst fit to unfit . It categorizes people rather than actions and designs social remedies whatever it is in people that makes them ‘unfit’, lesser, undesirable.

    That is what makes traditional justice good in its aim and intent and this proposal for eugenic intervention bad and dangerous. For by it some people will label other people – people, not actions. The crime of being something – ‘unfit’ (a completely meaningless term), replaces the proper definition of having done something. (*This* is how important language is.) And once that has happened social engineering in the name of law and justice can begin. The fertility police, the social engineers step into the bedroom. Welcome to the brave new world.

    So I’ll say it again. If parents have committed a crime, define the crime, assign an appropriate punishment and recompense. It they will be a danger to other people, keep them locked up or on long term probation – or better still reform the penalty system so that it works. But label the crime, not the person and keep your eyes open for social engineering which assumes that not all are of equal value in the guise of law or justice. It isn’t hard to recognize. It targets people not actions and its penalties have no clear boundaries or term limits.

  16. How about this:

    People who have grossly abused their pets are not permitted to have any more for 2 years, and if they refuse to abide by the court’s decision and get pets anyway, these are to be taken away immediately.

    Anyone object to that?

  17. Eva, I don’t think the issues is ‘gross abuse’ – it’s ‘unfit’ – what is that? A month or so ago in one of the British papers I read that some do-gooder nanny suggest that obese children be removed from their parents.

  18. ‘mishandeling/verwaarlozing’

    Abuse/neglect (as in let run wild and essentially abandon)

    And, yes, there’s a slippery slope argument.

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