Before Roe v. Wade…

Before Roe v. Wade,

….there was the Eugenic Protection Act.

World War II is often called The Good War and is widely accepted by Catholics as being the best modern example of a “just war.” But what should we think when a just war is fought with unjust means? Or has evil results?

When I was a kid, my friends and I (all boys, of course) were infatuated with WW II. Many of our fathers had fought in that war and Hollywood promoted it endlessly in exciting movies about heroic American and Brit efforts to defeat “the Krauts and the Japs.” We saw every movie and TV show and even knew the details of the fascinating weaponry that was employed by the American infantrymen, whom we emulated in our play.

But all of us kids were Catholics, and I’ll never forget how one day that made us different. In grammar school a nun told the class about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and how Catholic morality condemned those acts of war because the American decision makers had deliberately targeted non-combatants and the innocent. At one point we were even assigned to read John Hersey’s book, Hiroshima, and that was the beginning for me of a lifetime of skepticism about war and the U.S. Government.

The bombings were and still are the two greatest single acts of terrorism in history. But the aftermath of the war also brought into the world another instance of targeted killing of the innocent. It is a lesser known episode but it has had an ongoing worldwide impact which is arguably a greater threat to mankind than the advent of nuclear weapons.

In 1948, during the time of the American post-war military occupation, Japan legalized abortion. The enabling law was called the Eugenic Protection Act and, according to a book written in 2011 by Mara Hvistendahl, it was allowed and encouraged by the occupying force, under Supreme Commander General Douglas MacArthur.

One key actor was General William Draper, MacArthur’s superior for a time, a man who regarded abortion as the most effective form of birth control and went on to found the Population Crisis Committee which became Population Action International, a longtime international actor in promotion of anti-life policies.

Nearly the entire relevant chapter of Mara Hvistendahl’s book is currently on line at Google books:

Chapter 9: The General

Here is one excerpt:


“Like many countries following protracted wars, Japan was experiencing a baby boom as returning soldiers hunkered down with their wives. For the general, who ascribed to 1940s theories directly linking population size and economic growth, this was deeply unsettling. Draper worried the climbing birthrate would threaten the Japanese economy and undermine the stability of America’s strategic Asian foothold….

The notion of population control was just gaining appeal in the West, and many of the methods under discussion had not yet been tried on a grand scale. Japan, Western proponents realized, was just the place to test them. Liberalized birth control appealed to the Japanese elite, meanwhile, for a very different reason. Eugenics had become fashionable among the upper classes, a faction of whom believed Japan might be improved by forcibly preventing pregnancies among the mentally ill and physically disabled. Western and Eastern interests converged in 1948, when American advisers steered the country toward passing the Eugenic Protection Law, which legalized abortion and sterilization. The act made Japan the only country in the world to allow abortion for a variety of reasons.” [my emphasis]


According to Hvistendahl:

  • “The experiment worked, at least at the level of raw numbers.” 
  • “Japan’s birthrate plummeted” 
  • “By 1955 Japanese doctors were handling 30 to 50 percent more abortions than births” 
  • “He [Draper] returned home to the United States enthusiastic about abortion’s potential for furthering American interests abroad.”

Today, decades later,  Japan is dealing with the devastating and tragic effects of the contraceptive/abortion mentality. And throughout Asia, sex-selection abortion (which is the main subject of Hvistendahl’s book) looms as a monster stalking the world. (see the two links below from the New Oxford Review). At its origin the culture of death was linked with war and militarism and it remains so to this day, and any pro-life movement which fails to take this into account is doomed to failure.

Recommended reading:

The Culture of Death & the Death of a Culture

The Rise of the Asian Frankenstein

3 thoughts on “Before Roe v. Wade…

  1. Patrick

    I wrote a message to your state email address ( in response to your request that people contact you, but got an error message indicating that the address was invalid. What’s up?

  2. Pingback: Announcing Boston CAM | Catholics Against Militarism

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