University College London (UCL) has apologised for its “fundamental role” in the development of eugenic beliefs and practices.
Following an independent inquiry into the history of eugenics at UCL, the institution expressed “deep regret” for ‘legitimising’ the harmful ideology.
Eugenicists associated with UCL include Sir Francis Galton – who coined the term ‘eugenics’ and funded its first Chair of Eugenics – and former student Marie Stopes.
Still causing harm
President and Provost Professor Michael Arthur, speaking on behalf of UCL, acknowledged the university’s part in developing and propagating the “spurious idea that varieties of human life could be assigned different value”.
The formal statement also said: “The legacies and consequences of eugenics still cause direct harm through the racism, antisemitism, ableism and other harmful stereotyping that they feed.”
“We apologise fully, and with humility, to all those who have suffered and to those who are still suffering because of our role in creating the conditions that enabled eugenics to become established and acted upon”, it added.
However, the statement did not acknowledge any connection to the current prevalence of abortion and calls to introduce assisted suicide.
Last year abortion giant Marie Stopes International (MSI) was renamed in an attempt to distance itself from its founder’s openly racist and eugenicist views and activities.
Born in 1880, Stopes was a member of the Eugenics Society from 1912.
She lobbied Parliament extensively for enforced sterilisation of those with diseases or mental health issues, ‘half-caste’ individuals, those of ‘bad character’ or ‘prone to drunkenness’, and the ‘ugly and unfit’.
Actress Sally Phillips, whose teenage son Olly has Down’s syndrome, has called the current system of disability screening during pregnancy “a form of eugenics” for Down’s babies.
Since non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) was made available in the UK in 2012, Down’s syndrome births have fallen by 54 per cent.
The actress said NIPT is being driven by a global industry which is expected to be worth £4.75 billion by 2025.
She said: “If making money out of testing, that leads in most cases to termination, is not a form of eugenics then I don’t know what is.”
Bioethics expert Calum MacKellar recently denounced the “dangerous” attitude of pro-euthanasia campaigners, who are effectively saying that a life should be ended if it “does not reach a certain minimum quality threshold” or is not “deemed worthwhile”.
MacKellar warned that if this idea – that all lives are not equal in value – went unchecked, then “eugenics will be coming back”.