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By Their Fruits: Eugenics, Population Control, and the Abortion Campaign

Catholic University of America Press
Place of Publication: 
Washington, DC

Ann Farmer illuminates a dark corner of modern Western history in her groundbreaking new study of the English abortion campaign. The product of rigorous research, this book aims to correct long-held assumptions that the abortion campaign was the product of feminism and concern about backstreet abortion, and argues instead that it was the fruit of the eugenics/population control movement. Associated with Nazi Germany, eugenics is a social philosophy that advocates the improvement of the human race through various forms of intervention.

Farmer demonstrates that despite their compassionate rhetoric, female abortion advocates were all eugenicists, inspired by men, racist, elitist, and obsessed with controlling the quality and quantity of mankind. 'Solutions' included even the lethal chamber, and abortion advocates worked closely with American and German eugenicists, despite Nazi anti-Semitism.

After the Abortion Act of 1967 was passed, the abortion campaign mobilized an incestuous network of charities, feminist, and 'overpopulation' lobbying groups to defend it; they maintained that it was a necessary means to end dangerous backstreet abortions. Farmer disagrees and argues that in reality the Act was orchestrated by a liberal Home Secretary as a means of addressing poverty. She shows that in subsequent years, abortion increasingly targeted poor women and teenagers and became an integral element of state population control.

Though controversial in subject, By Their Fruits presents an important examination of not only the history of abortion legislation but also the history and impact of the Eugenics movement. (Publisher)