From: Randy Engel, Director, U.S. Coalition for Life, Box 315, Export, PA 15632
Date: April 24, 2007
Dear Prolife Friends and Contacts,This is Part II of a USCL four-part mailing on the March of Dimes whose spring fund-raising campaign is currently underway. The USCL Part I mailing on the March of Dimes featured the booklet "An A-Z Primer on the March of Dimes."
Part II consists of excerpts from Randy Engel’s book The McHugh Chronicles – Who Betrayed the Prolife Movement? The 117 page book with footnotes and index is only available by mail from New Engel Publishing,
Please copy and distribute to your own mailing list. No special permission is needed, but please include the above information in your mailing.
Excerpts from The McHugh Chronicles"The March of Dimes and The Catholic Connection"
In the late 1960s, when the National Foundation felt threatened by the public exposure of its anti-life policies and programs, especially those involving nightmarish human fetal experimentation, and the development and promotion of “search and destroy” intrauterine techniques designed to eliminate handicapped children in utero, the organization moved quickly to insure continued official support from the Catholic Church. The powerful public charity found a willing and enthusiastic champion for their cause in the person of Father James T. McHugh, then Director of the United States Catholic Conference’s (USCC) Family Life Division.
It would be well-nigh impossible for anyone to fully comprehend the
implications for Holy
brought about by
McHugh’s unholy alliance with the National Foundation/March of Dimes,
without some knowledge of the early history of the Foundation and the
events and personalities who helped shape its eugenic policies and
While these insights into the politics of charity of so-called national
voluntary health agencies like the March of Dimes are important in
right, they are indispensable to understanding the nature of the ties
bound Father McHugh to the National Foundation/March of Dimes for more
three decades. …
Influences Within the March of Dimes
Given the extent of the Warm Springs Foundation’s and the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis’ historical ties to Wall Street Establishment figures and the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, it was not surprising that the March of Dimes’ new Birth Defects Prevention Program, initiated in 1958, would be essentially eugenic in theory and practice.
Actually, even before the March of Dimes switched from polio to birth defects, there were a number of eugenic enthusiasts serving in various positions of influence at the national office.
They included Jeremiah Milbank, who served on the Board of Directors and was an Executive Committee member; Professor Anton Julius Carlson, a member of the American Eugenics Society (AES), who served on the National Foundation’s Medical and Research Committees; and AES member Professor Clair E. Turner, who served as Assistant to President Basil O’Connor. (59)
Later, Basil O’Connor acquired the services of Dr. Morris Fishbein,
M.D., who became his
Special Assistant on
Medical Affairs and Virginia Apgar, M.D., who became the MOD’s Director
for Medical Affairs in 1968. …
In the 1960s, as part of its “Birth Defects Prevention Program,” the National Foundation began to fund the establishment of so-called “genetic hygiene” or “genetic counseling” centers at major medical centers throughout the nation. Unlike the antiquated (and little-used) information-based hereditary counseling programs of the American Eugenics Society, new MOD clinic sites now included instruction on mid-trimester prenatal diagnosis and “reproductive options” including abortion of affected children.
In the NF/MOD 1970 Annual Report, Dr. Richard Heller and Dr. Robert E. Cooke described their program at The Johns Hopkins Prenatal Birth Defects Prevention Center. This eugenics center began full scale operation in June 1969, with MOD financial support.
According to Dr. Heller, the purpose of the Birth Defects Center is “to encourage parents to have children... parents who otherwise might not have children for fear of being afflicted with birth defects.” (65)
However, the bitter battle which developed between the Pro-Life Movement and the MOD in the early 1970s, in which Msgr. McHugh would side with the MOD, went far beyond the abortion issue to include lethal, live human fetal experimentation including human embryo research, fetal organ harvesting, abortifacient research, sexual conditioning programs, funding of pro-abortion organizations, and much more. …
One not need be a rocket scientist to figure out, why, by the mid-1970s, the National Foundation/March of Dimes had become the number one anti-life target of the Pro-Life Movement in the United States. Catholic laymen, bishops, school administrators, and charitable and fraternal groups such as the Sons of Italy and the National Council of Catholic Women, were urged to withdraw support from the National Foundation/March of Dimes until it reformed itself. The threat of a national boycott by Church authorities and parochial schools was no small matter to the MOD, since a significant portion of its annual budget of approximately $50 million, came from Catholic sources.
Unfortunately, by now, any opportunity for genuine reform was out of the question. The National Foundation’s top executive officers and staff and key advisory committees were too morally compromised and too hopelessly bogged down in the eugenics quagmire to change, due in large part, to Basil O’Connor and the Rockefeller influence on the direction of the National Foundation’s research policies and programs. Even after Basil O’Connor died in 1972, the organization continued its eugenics tradition under its new President, Joseph F. Nee.
MOD Mainlines Eugenics Into Standard Medical Practice
The March of Dimes’ strategy for mainstreaming eugenics into standard medical practice and consequently into the lives of millions of Americans, followed the well-established pattern of other powerful anti-life foundations (Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford, and Robert Wood Johnson, to name a few). First, large amounts of seed monies are poured into research and pilot programs which have little if any popular support and, in some cases, great public opposition. When these programs are accepted and become well-established they are then absorbed and institutionalized as governmental policies and programs funded by the taxpayer.
On March 14, 1978, Charles I. Massey, President of the NF/MOD, held a national news conference in Manhattan to squelch rumors that, due to pro-life pressure, the MOD was about to discontinue its eugenics programs and services. On the contrary, Massey stated, his foundation was still committed to genetics (read eugenics) and would continue to fund genetic research and new medical services programs. However, when five-year grants of “seed money” for medical service grants of any kind expired, the MOD-funded genetics centers were expected to find alternative sources of income (i.e., the taxpayer). …
The reauthorization and appropriation of funds for the National Genetic Diseases Act completed the anti-life government circle begun with the passage of the 1970 Family Planning Services and Population Research Act. The former legislation did for eugenics what the latter had accomplished for population control (including abortion) in the United States a decade earlier. Neither of these previous anti-life pieces of federal legislation met with any organized opposition from the Catholic bishops or the NCCB/USCC.
So, too, does Dr. Marie Peeters, Dr. Lejeune’s former colleague at his Paris laboratory, who recently took over Dr. Lejeune’s position as Director of Medical Research for The Michael Fund.
From her clinical work with Down Syndrome children and young adults, Dr. Peeters has experienced some very special insights into the effects of the popularization of prenatal diagnosis on the handicapped and on their siblings. Her views of the eugenic implications of prenatal diagnosis are in stark contrast to those of Msgr., now, Bishop McHugh.