Time for a reckoning with her record of supporting eugenics
Margaret Sanger (1879-1966) was the founder of Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortion services in the US and the political flagship of the pro-choice movement there.
She was also a fervent eugenicist – and in the era of Black Lives Matter progressives have eugenics in the cross-hairs. Like other progressives of the early 20th century, she favoured sterilization of the genetically unfit, keeping the diseased and “feebleminded” from immigrating, and segregating so-called illiterates, paupers, unemployables, criminals, prostitutes, and dope fiends. She endorsed the Supreme Court’s notorious 1927 Buck v. Bell decision.
A sentence from “The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda” (1921) is typical of her numerous bon mots about eugenics, “Today eugenics is suggested by the most diverse minds as the most adequate and thorough avenue in the solution of racial, political and social problems.”
So it comes as no great surprise that Planned Parenthood of Greater New York announced this week that it will remove her name from its Manhattan health clinic because of her “harmful connections to the eugenics movement”.
“The removal of Margaret Sanger’s name from our building is both a necessary and overdue step to reckon with our legacy and acknowledge Planned Parenthood’s contributions to historical reproductive harm within communities of color,” the group’s chair said in a statement.
PPGNY also wants to replace Sanger’s name on a street sign that has hung near its offices on Bleecker Street.
PPGNY did not specify what it meant by “Planned Parenthood’s contributions to historical reproductive harm within communities of color” but black pro-life activists have often described the effect of abortion amongst African-Americans as “genocide”.
Like other groups defending “cancelled” figures from J.K. Rowling to Robert E. Lee to Winston Churchill, Planned Parenthood has vigorously defended its “visionary” founder. In a 2016 PDF on its website, it insisted that embarrassing quotations have been taken out of context and that she has to be understood as a woman of her times.
But if this defence didn’t work for Thomas Jefferson, is it going to work for Margaret Sanger?
Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge
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