1930s Eugenics Society Exhibit. Photo (cc) from Wellcome Library.

One of the themes I explored in my 2003 book about dwarfism, “Little People,” was that in vitro diagnoses of genetic conditions — barely a glimmer 20 years ago — might one day lead to health-care providers, insurance companies and others pressuring parents to end pregnancies in order to save money and resources. I called my chapter on that topic “The New Eugenics.”

Now comes Michael Hugo, chair of the Democratic Committee in Framingham, who has managed to combine his support for abortion rights with a twisted argument in favor of eugenics. According the Framingham Source, Hugo urged the city council to pass a resolution supporting reproductive rights and to take a stand against so-called crisis pregnancy centers, which have been accused of using deceptive tactics in order to persuade women not to go through with abortions. So far, so good. But then he said this:

Our fear is that if an unqualified sonographer misdiagnoses a heart defect, an organ defect, spina bifida, that becomes a very local issue because our school budget will have to absorb the cost of a child in special education, supplying lots and lots of special services to children, who were born with the defect. So it’s our hope that the Council tonight will pass this ordinance, and by doing so perhaps one of the businesses that might be looking at coming to Framingham, will look at Framingham and decide, well, we better just keep driving and look for a different town or a different city.

The Source quotes several councilors who objected to Hugo’s remarks, using words and phrases like “repulsed,” “profoundly repugnant” and “horrified.” The resolution in favor of abortion rights passed, but the council overwhelmingly made it clear that had nothing to do with Hugo’s offensive remarks. According to a follow-up story in The Boston Globe, Hugo later took to Facebook and apologized.

Hugo’s bizarre reasoning is exactly the sort of thing that anti-abortion-rights forces like to jump on when arguing that abortion ought to be illegal. Hugo’s remarks were not only hurtful, but they were potentially damaging to the cause he allegedly supports. What on earth was he thinking?

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