Planned Parenthood of Greater New York is acknowledging its eugenic origins and removing the name of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, from its Manhattan location. Sanger was proud to serve as a guest speaker at a Ku Klux Klan rally in Silver Lake, New Jersey, in 1926 and is known for her efforts to use birth control as a “process of weeding out the unfit, of preventing the birth of defectives or of those who will become defectives.”
And, yes, she did actually say that.
Though Planned Parenthood attempts to portray itself as a leader in the fight for human rights, its devotion to increasing abortions for any reason (including the baby’s race, sex, or disability diagnosis) and through all nine months of pregnancy says otherwise.
In a 2016 article celebrating Planned Parenthood’s 100-year anniversary, Margaret Sanger is described as “a woman of heroic accomplishments” but that, “like all heroes,” she was also “complex and imperfect.”
What Planned Parenthood fails to acknowledge is that Sanger wasn’t a “noble” activist who fought for a just cause… and also made mistakes. She founded Planned Parenthood based on the idea of controlling the genetic make-up of the human population.
These were not private feelings.
So how do we know that Planned Parenthood hasn’t quite come to terms with the truth about its “hero”? Though it may be willing to remove her name from a facility in the midst of race riots, Planned Parenthood attempts to hastily brush past her views while continuing “business as usual.” Yet its “business” is rooted in Sanger’s work, from her activism, to her legislative advocacy, to her business model.
But so far, Planned Parenthood has failed to address one important fact: Its work continues to inflict present—and fatal—harm on communities of color.
New York’s own data shows that there are more abortions than live births among non-Hispanic Black women in Manhattan (specifically, for every 1,000 live births, there are 1,089.2 abortions). Contrast that with non-Hispanic White women, where for every 1,000 live births in Manhattan, there are “only” 392.9 abortions. And while it is tragic that any abortions are harming women and killing babies of any race, these numbers clearly show a disparate racial impact. Planned Parenthood can take Margaret Sanger’s name off the Manhattan facility, but that doesn’t erase the facts.
As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas reminds us, abortion has certainly acted as a tool of eugenics: “Eight years after Sanger’s ‘Negro Project,’ abortion in the United States is also marked by a considerable racial disparity…whatever the reasons for these disparities, they suggest that, insofar as abortion is viewed as a method of ‘family planning,’ black people do indeed take the brunt of the ‘planning.’”
Despite this, Planned Parenthood continues its desperate attempt to convince the public and themselves that Margaret Sanger wasn’t that racist. The organization even produced a so-called “factsheet” referring to Sanger’s manipulation of Black doctors as an “education project.”
But a letter to Dr. C.J. Gamble reveals Sanger’s true feelings and intentions on these matters. In that letter, Sanger writes that “while the colored Negroes have great respect for white doctors they can get closer to their own members” and “lay their cards on the table which means their ignorance, superstitions, and doubts.”
Though Sanger did not make abortion the primary function of Planned Parenthood in her own time, this horrifying practice is a logical extension of the work that she started. In fact, the Planned Parenthood of today takes her eugenicist work a step further, directly and intentionally taking the lives of innocent human beings—even for discriminatory reasons involving the race, sex, or disability of the child.
Planned Parenthood untiringly advocates for abortion without restriction, including fighting against sex-selective abortion bans in California as well as legislation in Missouri and other states prohibiting the abortion of children with a Down syndrome diagnosis.
The bottom line is this: Abortion is regularly used as a tool of lethal discrimination based on an unborn person’s physical characteristics. Human rights are for every human being regardless of age, size, location, and level of dependency. But Margaret Sanger did not believe that all people are created equal, and that continues to be evident in her organization’s work today.
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