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1930s- 1940s: American Eugenics Reform: "New Eugenics"

"The present program of eugenics seeks to attain a wisely balanced distribution of births by methods which are practical under the conditions of today. It seeks a social morality so changed that under a system of voluntary parenthood a larger majority of our children will be born and reared in those homes which can give them the fullest and happiest preparation for life. It calls for a public opinion which believes that the quality of the human beings who compose our nation is of more importance than are the problems which have received far greater attention. When these changes have come, then the way will have been prepared for an enlarged eugenics program with all it may contain of hope for the future. With each new advance of knowledge, the ideal of a better life on earth, to which all men aspire, points ever more clearly to this need, that the nation's children be well-born."
American Eugenics Society,
A Eugenics Program for the United States, 1935

After 1930, some eugenicists began to reconsider their program in light of growing controversies over the scientific validity or social value of eugenics research, the political and religious opposition to sterilization and discriminatory marriage laws, and an apparent public skepticism over its relevance or value. The Great Depression, on one hand, dramatized the tenuous nature of status and social position that eugenicists attributed to heredity and swelled the ranks of those "dependent" on public support. On the other hand, the loss in revenues made sterilization a more attractive option for the growing population of Americans in state institutions. Many successful campaigns for sterilization of the allegedly "unfit" were waged and won on economic arguments.

While the leaders of the Eugenics Research Association at Cold Spring Harbor and the Human Betterment Foundation in California sustained the rhetoric of race hygiene and openly supported race hygiene measures in Nazi Germany, the American Eugenics Society recognized the political liabilities of framing eugenics in racial terms. In 1934, AES president Ellsworth Huntington rewrote the eugenics catechism to appeal to democratic sentiments, the desire for the health and happiness of children, and the need to improve economic opportunities. Denoting their program the "new eugenics," the American Eugenics Society preserved the core philosophy of the "old" eugenics and the goal of a eugenic society through reproductive selection, while avoiding the explicitly racist rhetoric of the Nazi regime and its sympathizers.

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