Eugenics lives! Louisiana lawmaker wants to sterilize the poor

Rep. John LaBruzzo, a Republican from Metarie (David Duke’s old haunts) wants to pay poor women $1,000 to get sterilized. Why? Because people receiving food and housing assistance “are reproducing at a faster rate than more affluent, better-educated residents.” The New Orleans Times-Picayune has the story:

“What I’m really studying is any and all possibilities that we can reduce the number of people that are going from generational welfare to generational welfare,” he said.

He said his program would be voluntary. It could involve tubal ligation, encouraging other forms of birth control or, to avoid charges of gender discrimination, vasectomies for men.


It also could include tax incentives for college-educated, higher-income people to have more children, he said.

LaBruzzo, 38, is white, married to a lawyer, has a toddler daughter and holds a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University.

[snip–so to speak]

“It’s easy to say, ‘Oh, he’s a racist,’ ” LaBruzzo said. “The hard part is to sit down and think of some solutions.”

LaBruzzo said he opposes abortion and paying people to have abortions. He described a sterilization program as providing poor people with better opportunities to avoid welfare, because they would have fewer children to feed and clothe.

He acknowledged his idea might be a difficult sell politically.


“I don’t know if it’s a viable option,” LaBruzzo said. “Of course people are going to get excited about it. Maybe we’ll start a debate on it.”

Well, he’s done that. New Orleans’ Catholic archbishop, Alfred Hughes, was the first area clergyman to come out against LaBruzzo’s proposal. According to RNS, Hughes based his opposition on two elements of Labruzzo’s proposal: the technique of direct sterilization and the underlying purpose of manipulating the birth rate to reduce certain populations as a matter of public policy.  

More broadly, Hughes said, the plan “would also constitute a form of eugenics that the church and this country have always condemned.”


Over at dotCommonweal, where I saw this news, Notre Dame’s Cathleen Kaveny applauds Hughes but notes that the archbishop’s historical analysis is flawed:

“He’s wrong in saying we Americans have always condemned eugenics. That’s the problem. We haven’t. I do not believe in whitewashing history-the history of Christianity or the history of the United States. And I do believe in making contemporary citizens and believers confront the bad decisions of the past. The United States does not have a good history with eugenics -before the Second World War, and the revelations of the atrocities of Nazi Germany, it was attractive public policy.”


Professor Kaveny goes on to cite the infamous Buck v. Bell case of 1927 in which Justioce Oliver Wendell Holmes, writing for the majority that upheld forced sterilization for the good of the rest of society, declared: “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

In the comments thread to that post, some tried to tie this sin of eugenics to “liberal Christianity,” an inflammatory charge aimed at progressive believers in America now, as then. But America’s ugly dalliance with eugenics is replete with instances of progressives who were so enamored of social engineering or bringing about paradise on earth that they succumbed to the worst temptations to make it happen. (And of course, conservatives, perhaps like the GOP legislator in Louisiana, were no better; maybe Sarah Palin will have him to dinner if she’s elected.)


This episode is a good reminder of our common failings, and how far we have come, but also how realistic we must be about our faults, the faults of others, and the grace of imperfection in everyone. has updates.

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Jimmy Mac

posted September 28, 2008 at 11:43 pm

I hope that Mr. LaBruzzo remembers that his Italian forbears were most like poor with large families. If his grandparents had taken advantage of the “assistance” being offered by him, he most likely would not be here today.

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Mere Catholic

posted September 29, 2008 at 10:46 am

Two comments:
“maybe Sarah Palin will have him to dinner if she’s elected”
Huh? Why would you say this? Call her out on policy if you like, but in several posts here and on Commonweal, you seem only too eager to reveal your antipathy towards Palin. The bitter sarcasm doesn’t seem worthy of a self-described journalist, especially one who has publicly touted his adherence to Catholicism.
A thought after reading the part of your post that actually was insightful:
Then there is the de-facto eugenics evident in the population demographics of abortion today. African-Americans are 12% of the population, but represent 30% of abortive women. Abortion clinics, especially Planned Parenthood, are savvy in advertising in minority-populated areas (Se habla espanol!, as the ads cheer). Just another legacy from Margaret Sanger, the eugenicist and founder of Planned Parenthood, which underscores your point that there are people from all political persuasions who are too willing to rid the world of certain populations.

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posted September 29, 2008 at 11:59 am

I very rarely agree with the RCC, but in this case I do. However I don’t agree for the same reason. If a woman or man feels it is necessary to have a sterilzation procedure, that is for them to decide and is a personal decision. I don’t feel the RCC should tell their “flock” that they can’t “stop” having children permanently, or for a couple of years. Of course they feel that tons of kids is necessary, whether they can be fed or not.
Found it interesting that LaBruzzo isn’t pro-choice, but feels that a better option is just to cut those tubes and not have a chance for anymore kids, ever. Or cut the guys “tubes” so he can’t reproduce.
I can hope LaBruzzo reconsiders his horrible idea.

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posted September 29, 2008 at 2:19 pm

I must tell the rest of the world that Mr. Labruzzo’s comments do not represent the beliefs of all of his constituents. I went to school with Johnny and when he ran for election I thought he would be a good fit for the district. I voted for him. Now I have had to email him on more then 3 different occasions (this is not his first incident)asking him to resign. He is an embarrasemnet to an area with an already bad reputuation, and at a time when we need all the help we can get as a region, we do not need idiot lawmakers making statements of this sort. I no longer live in Mr. Labruzzo’s district, so I can not initiate a recall petetion, but I will be there to assist anyone who wishes to do so. Also note that a recall petition was filed against him earlier this yaer, but was drealied by Bobby JIndal’s veto of a payraise that Johnny voted for himself along with a bunch of other greed mongers.

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posted September 29, 2008 at 2:41 pm

First, the remark towards Palin was really off-base. Second, the U.S. still engages in eugenics but it’s now called “choice” and had the full support of American secular liberals and progressives.

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posted September 29, 2008 at 5:43 pm

La Bruzzo trying to use funding to control the masses is old school eugenics. Cyber-eugenics as explained in Bernard Amador’s book Cyber-eugenics: The Neural Code tells how advances in cognitive science and the cracking of the neural code may be the future direction of a modern day eugenics movement where families will no longer have to be paid or women alter their bodies. Technology will be used in conjunction with social engineering to accomplish the eugenic ideal in America.

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Little Bear

posted September 29, 2008 at 9:30 pm

I am not commenting on LaBruzzo’s idea—except to state that it is indeed racist–because most of the really poor in LaBruzzo’s district are African-American.
But I am commenting on the slam on Palin. Where is the impartial attitude of editors who write for a Catholic website? It seems to me, that Sarah Palin could be having the Holy Spirit tapping on her shoulder, directing her every move, and she would still be “slammed” for something that she may or may not have said—did or may not have done. Is it because she belongs to the ‘wrong political party’?

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posted September 30, 2008 at 4:00 pm

I think that this man has a good idea. He is breaking new ground with his idea’s. This could save countless lives since less poverty = less crime. This has been proven time and time again in test and by just happening in life. If this was implemented be four the first hurricane there would have been a lot less looting and crime all together. The only problem i see with this is the cost, for paying the doctor, and the $1000 for having to pay the people who have it done.

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Mere Catholic

posted September 30, 2008 at 6:04 pm

Shane: “He is breaking new ground with his idea’s”
By the way, Mr. LaBruzzo is not breaking new ground here. He is merely following in the footsteps of such luminaries as Adolf Hitler.

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posted October 7, 2008 at 6:00 pm

No,no,no Adolph Hitler didn’t say sterilize them or pay them to be sterilized he said KILL THEM ALL and meant the Jewish people. So the statement that Mr. LaBruzzo is following in the footsteps of Hitler is wrong on several levels. Also the notion that Mr. LaBruzzo is referring to only African Americans isn’t totally accurate either. There are many people of other races and nationalities that have tons of kids and cannot afford to raise them or provide for them. Not saying I Totally agree with his ideas, just trying to point out that it’s wrong to jump to conclusions and put words in people’s mouths. Why are certain people so sure it’s them that he’s referring to? Maybe because they know it’s basically true but they don’t want to admit it?

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