“Planned Parenthood was founded by a racist, white woman.”
No, this sentence was not penned by some pro-life activist, pushing back against the whitewashing of the legacy of Margaret Sanger by Planned Parenthood. Astonishingly, it appears in a statement signed by hundreds of current Planned Parenthood employees and supporters.
The statement was issued last month to raise concerns about the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York (PPGNY), Laura McQuade (who has since been fired). In the statement, the employees expressed a litany of grievances against McQuade. But one of the charges is deeply ironic in light of the efforts Planned Parenthood has been making recently to show its support for the Black Lives Matter movement – namely that there existed a culture of “racism and anti-Blackness” at PPGNY under McQuade’s leadership.
The employees’ oddly forthright admission of Planned Parenthood’s racist history comes in the context of their complaints about an alleged lack of racial equity within the organization. After pointing out that Sanger was racist, the statement adds, “That is a part of history that cannot be changed. While efforts have been made to undo some of the harm from institutional racism, many of these issues have worsened under McQuade’s tenure.”
The statement is extraordinary in light of the enormous amount of energy Planned Parenthood and its shills in the mainstream media have put over the years into discrediting claims by the pro-life movement that Sanger was racist, and that her racism still permeates the organization. What the statement suggests is that even many within the organization know full well that this is simply propaganda.
Time to Tear Down Sanger’s Statue
In recent days and weeks, progressive protesters around the country – and indeed the world – have been tearing down statues, ostensibly motivated by the Black Lives Matter movement and the belief that the individuals depicted in the statues had some connection or another to slavery, racism, or bigotry.
This fit of iconoclasm is so indiscriminate that the rage of protesters has settled on just about any statue, so long as it depicts a white male who at some point possessed any sort of position of prominence or power. Late last month, for instance, Catholics watched with dismay as protesters in California toppled statues depicting St. Junipero Serra. Meanwhile, progressive activists are now targeting a famous statue of St. Louis, the holy medieval king, in the city of that name, demanding that it be removed.
History is complicated, and being declared a saint does not mean that a person’s life was perfect, or that every decision he made was the right one. But history is quite clear that both of these saintly men ardently defended the rights of the weak, downtrodden and the exploited, often in direct opposition to the prejudices of their age.
As the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis pointed out in a recent statement, St. Louis instituted political reforms designed to protect the vulnerable from abuses of power, and was renowned for feeding beggars at his table, even washing their feet with his own hands, in imitation of Our Lord.
Unfortunately, the same concern for the vulnerable is not evident in the lives of other famous historical figures, whose statues have remained untouched, and whose legacies have gone unquestioned by the progressive iconoclasts. Arguably one of the worst of these, the one whose legacy has resulted in the worst harm to the lives and welfare of minority communities, is Margaret Sanger, whose bust is prominently on display at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.
Where men like St. Junipero Serra and St. Louis spent their lives striving to put into action their Christian belief in the fundamental dignity and equality of all human beings made in the image and likeness of God, and to proactively apply this belief to those in society most marginalized and vulnerable to exploitation, the same cannot be said of Sanger. Instead, Sanger adhered to the deeply inhuman and exploitative theory of eugenics, a theory that had deep ties to explicit racism.
Sanger’s Racist Eugenics
To examine Sanger’s writings is to take a trip into a horrific world of dehumanizing rhetoric and even more dehumanizing practical programs. For Sanger the world was divided into the “fit” and the “unfit” – those who she deemed worthy of being allowed to reproduce, so as to increase the quality of the human race, and those who should be forcibly prevented from reproducing through compulsory sterilization and segregation.
“The first step would be to control the intake and output on morons, mental defectives, epileptics,” she wrote in a document called My Way to Peace. “The second step would be to take an inventory of the second group, such as illiterates, paupers, unemployables, criminals, prostitutes, dope-fiends; classify them in special departments under government medical protection and segregate them on farms and open spaces.”
“Segregate them on farms and open spaces.” In other words, concentration camps for the unfit.
The state, she urged, must “apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization, and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is already tainted or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring.” In all, she estimated that some five million “mental and moral degenerates” would have to be segregated.
In the end, inspired by her thinking and that of other eugenicists, dozens of U.S. states did put in place forcible sterilization programs, in which tens of thousands of people deemed unfit were sterilized – an enormous black eye on this country’s human rights record.
Given the rampant racism at the time, especially among eugenicists, it is not surprising that Sanger focused efforts on curtailing the fertility of racial minorities. While scholars debate the extent to which Sanger was motivated by racism as such, as opposed to the racist implications of her eugenic beliefs, which tended to view poor, impoverished minority communities as less developed members of the human race, it is uncontroversial that she explicitly strove to disseminate birth control among minority communities through the so-called Negro Project.
In one infamous letter about that project, Sanger even appears to suggest that her organization was seeking to “exterminate” the blacks. While some people claim that Sanger’s meaning in the letter has been misunderstood, what is certain is that she speaks of blacks in that letter with painful dismissiveness, condemning their “ignorance, superstition, and doubts.” It is also verifiable that on at least one occasion she spoke to a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan.
On another occasion, she wrote these astonishingly dehumanizing words about the Australian indigenous peoples: “The lower down in the scale of human development we go, the less sexual control we find. It is said the aboriginal Australian, the lowest known species of the human family, just a step higher than the chimpanzee in brain development, has so little sexual control that police authority alone prevents him from obtaining sexual satisfaction on the streets.”
Sanger’s Racism Still Infects Planned Parenthood
Pro-life activists have long pointed out that the racist DNA of eugenics is still very much at work in Planned Parenthood. Just as Sanger targeted poor minority communities for her eugenic efforts, so too does her organization to this day. According to one study, 79% of Planned Parenthood’s surgical abortion facilities are located within walking distance of African American or Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods.
Tragically, the abortion numbers among black and other minority communities are catastrophically high, in comparison to the average population. In New York City, for instance, the latest numbers show that more black babies are aborted every year than are born alive. Across the country, the black abortion rate is three to four times that of the general population.
One black pro-life leader who has been calling attention to this black genocide happening within the borders of our own cities is Ryan Bomberger, the founder of The Radiance Foundation. In one powerful image put out by his organization, Bomberger notes: “Planned Parenthood: The leading killer of unarmed black lives.”
In a powerful op-ed penned response to the condemnations of the Charlottesville rallies a few years ago, Bomberger wrote: “I’m no fan of the Confederate battle flag or anything from that defeated nation, but if you want to tear down present vestiges of ‘white supremacy’, let’s start with Planned Parenthood.”
“Yes,” he continued, “the nation’s leading abortion chain birthed in eugenic racism and elitism. They seem to inject themselves into every social issue these days, using $554.6 million annual taxpayer dollars to pander, no matter what. They’ve been tweeting about Charlottesville and bringing an ‘end to white supremacy’. Uhhh, that would be like Penthouse wanting to bring an end to pornography….”
He concludes: “Planned Parenthood kills over 260 unarmed black lives every day in America, yet the Left praises them.”
The fact is, in their vocal support for Black Lives Matter, Planned Parenthood is simply moving the deck chairs, hoping that we will ignore the fact that they have done nothing to fundamentally reject the core values of Margaret Sanger. They are perpetuating her legacy by supporting the programs she inaugurated, and the result has been the death of untold millions of innocent African American babies over the decades.
Those hundreds of New York Planned Parenthood employees were right to label Sanger a racist, and her organization tainted by institutional racism. But if they want to repudiate that legacy, then they must renounce Planned Parenthood outright and all it stands for and close its doors. Doing so would be one of the greatest victories for racial justice in our country’s history.