April 14, 2024

Marie Stopes’s most famous memorial scrubs her name off the brand 

A woman who promoted eugenics is not a great advertisement

Just as slavery is the Achilles heel of 19th century institutions, eugenics is the weak point of abortion providers. The Black Lives Matter movement has unearthed links to slavery in public statuary and founders of American universities. Similarly, Planned Parenthood has had to distance itself from Margaret Sanger and the name of a former president of the University of Southern California has been expunged from its buildings.

But nobody has a bigger public relations challenge than Marie Stopes International. This is a British outfit with 13,000 employees which claims to be “one of the world’s largest providers of high quality, affordable contraception and safe abortion services”. Last year it helped around 5 million women with their abortions. It has clinics in 37 countries around the world.

Problem is, there are grubby eugenic fingerprints all over the brand. Marie Stopes, the pioneering birth control provider after whom the group was named, was an ardent eugenicist who even advocated compulsory sterilisation.

So the organisation is changing its name to MSI Reproductive Choices. Problem gone.

But is it?

Stopes was a prolific writer and describing her as a eugenicist is entirely uncontroversial.

How about the N-word? Yes, that too. In 1935, she attended a Nazi Congress for Population Science in Berlin. Zoe Williams, a columnist for The Guardian, mused that “Her eugenics programme was actually slightly to the right of Hitler’s.” Stopes admired Adolf. A month before World War II broke out she sent him a note along with a volume of her ghastly love poems: ‘Dear Herr Hitler, love is the greatest thing in the world: so will you accept from me these that you may allow the young people of your nation to have them?‘

If there had been any doubt about where her sympathies lay, she bequeathed her birth control clinic to the Eugenics Society when she died in 1958. Stopes’s birth control segued into controlling births.

All this was well known. June Rose’s 1992 widely-reviewed biography, Marie Stopes and the Sexual Revolution, paints a picture of an unpleasant woman whose brain was boiling with poisonous ideas and documents her devotion to eugenics, her social Darwinism, and her admiration of Hitler. (Rose suppressed evidence of anti-Semitism as “too distasteful”.)

But nobody seems to have cared too much. Until now. In the age of cancel culture, the eugenics taint became too dangerous. Anticipating attacks from the ravening wolves of wokery, the managers of Marie Stopes International acted before their business was destroyed. They cancelled their patron saint. Marie Stopes has been whitewashed from the organisation’s history.

Simon Cooke, the CEO, explained: “Marie Stopes was a pioneer of family planning; however, she was also a supporter of the eugenics movement and expressed many opinions which are in stark contrast to MSI’s core values and principles.”

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge

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