Disability rights advocates have been among the earliest and most vocal
critics of emerging genetic and reproductive technologies. Many people with
disabilities are acutely aware that technologies enabling the selection of
“good” genes and “normal” traits can devalue disabled people’s bodies and
ultimately their lives.
This concern is informed by past and ongoing discrimination against people
with disabilities that often includes brutal practices. For example,
twentieth-century eugenicists in the United States and some European countries
sponsored programs that sterilized tens of thousands of disabled people. The
Nazi genocide began with doctors and nurses exterminating over 100,000 disabled
people in German medical facilities; tens of thousands more perished in
This historical context gives pause to disability rights advocates concerned
about existing selection technologies that are increasingly being used to
prevent the birth of children with particular traits, as well as future
technologies that could be used to modify children’s genes.