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Critics Portray Pro-Life Advocates As Racists. The Founder Of Planned Parenthood Had A History Pro-Eugenics Comments And Targeting Black Communities

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Mary Margaret Olohan Social Issues Reporter
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  • Some media outlets portray pro-life advocates as racists, correlating them with “anti-blackness” and “white supremacists.”
  • But these outlets failed to note that Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger had a history of pro-eugenics comments and targeting black communities with birth control.
  • Sanger addressed members of the Ku Klux Klan, targeted southern black communities with birth control and discussed her enthusiasm for eliminating defective “human weeds” through eugenics.

Some media outlets portray pro-life advocates as racists, but Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger had a history of pro-eugenics comments and targeting black communities with birth control.

Media Matters, Rewire News and The Nation ran 2020 stories with the headlines “Right-wing media and abortion opponents should confront the anti-blackness of their movement,” “March for Life Has an Anti-Blackness Problem” and “The Long History of the Anti-Abortion Movement’s Links to White Supremacists.”

These stories portray the pro-life movement as dangerous to black communities, warn that racism is woven into the pro-life movement and say that the pro-life movement promotes anti-black rhetoric. (RELATED: ANALYSIS: Infanticide Is A Real Issue, Despite Establishment Media Narrative)

Yet these articles did not touch on questionably racist and pro-eugenics comments made by the founder of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.

Planned Parenthood credits Sanger with founding the organization in 1916 when she opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. in Brownsville, Brooklyn, in New York City. Authorities raided the clinic nine days after it opened, shut it down, and charged Sanger, her sister Ethel Byrne and activist Fania Mindell for sharing birth control information. Sanger reportedly spent 30 days in jail after refusing to pay her fine.

She opened the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau in Manhattan in 1923 and incorporated the American Birth Control League, organizations that reportedly merged to form the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Sanger Targeted Black Communities With Birth Control

Sanger started a program called the “The Negro Project,” an initiative aimed at giving black women access birth control. “We believe birth control knowledge brought to this group, is the most direct, constructive aid that can be given them to improve their immediate situation,” she wrote in 1939.

While contraception was more difficult to access during Sanger’s time, access has expanded widely.

Birth control pills are now free under most insurance plans or under certain government programs, and former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act mandated that most insurance plans cover all forms of birth control and doctor’s office visits related to birth control. President Donald Trump promised to repeal this legislation, but he has yet to do so.

The Planned Parenthood founder also wrote in a 1939 letter about her plan to reach out to black leaders and ministers in the South as she opened birth control clinics in order to quell southern suspicions about these clinics. Sanger explained that she thought the “Negro population” would be more amenable to learning about birth control from black leaders.

“While the colored Negroes have great respect for white doctors, they can get closer to their own members and more or less lay their cards on the table, ” Sanger wrote in 1939. “They do not do this with the white people, and if we can train the Negro doctor at the clinic, he can go among them with enthusiasm and with knowledge, which, I believe, will have far-reaching results.”

Sanger added that the doctor’s work, in her opinion, should be only with the “Negro profession and the nurses, hospital, social workers, as well as the County’s white doctors.” (RELATED: Vast Majority Of Women Affected By Alabama, Georgia Laws Are Black)

“His success will depend upon his personality and his training by us,” she added, explaining that this person should be trained, possibly by Planned Parenthood, about the organization’s ideals and goals.

“We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members,” she wrote.

Some pro-lifers say that this comment shows a vendetta against black Americans. Former presidential candidate Herman Cain said in 2011 that this comment indicated Sanger wished to prevent “the increasing number of poor blacks in this country by preventing black babies from being born.”

Media outlets such as Time Magazine and The Washington Post contend that Sanger was not referring to exterminating the Negro population but to her fear that people would interpret her mission in this way. WaPo’s fact checker Glenn Kessler called Sanger’s words “inartfully written.”

The Planned Parenthood founder also addressed members of the white supremacist, anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic organization the Ku Klux Klan.

“Always to me any aroused group was a good group, and therefore I accepted an invitation to talk to the women’s branch of the Ku Klux Klan at Silver Lake, New Jersey, one of the weirdest experiences I had in lecturing,” Sanger wrote in her autobiography published in 1938.

She also wrote that her address that night “had to be in the most elementary terms, as though I were trying to make children understand,” because she feared that if she “uttered one word, such as abortion, outside the usual vocabulary of these women they would go off into hysteria.”

Media fact checking outlets such as Snopes and PolitiFact hedge that though the Planned Parenthood founder did address members of the KKK, Sanger did not appear to respect the KKK. “That’s a far cry from being an ‘active participant’ in the Klu Klux Klan,” a PolitiFact writer noted in 2015, referring to a claim from former New Hampshire Speaker of the House William O’Brien.

Planned Parenthood also defended Sanger from accusations of racism in a 2004 document, “Opposition Claims About Margaret Sanger.” The document includes another Sanger comment, “The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it,” which Planned Parenthood said is an ironic comment about infant mortality rate.

Supporters of Planned Parenthood dressed as characters from "The Handmaid's Tale," hold a rally as they protest the US Senate Republicans' healthcare bill outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC, June 27, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

Supporters of Planned Parenthood dressed as characters from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” hold a rally as they protest the U.S. Senate Republicans’ healthcare bill outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., June 27, 2017. (Photo credit SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

Sanger Used Planned Parenthood To Promote Eugenics: ‘Opens The Way To The Eugenist’

Sanger also emphasized a strong interest in furthering eugenics through birth control on many occasions.

“Birth Control, on the other hand, not only opens the way to the eugenist, but it preserves his work,” she wrote in a February 1919 article titled “Birth Control and Racial Betterment.” “Furthermore, it not only prepares the ground in a natural fashion for the development of a higher standard of motherhood and of family life, but enables the child to be better born, better cared for in infancy and better educated.”

Birth control did not mean “contraception indiscriminately practiced” but instead the elimination of defective “human weeds,” Sanger wrote in 1923.

“It means the release and cultivation of the better elements in our society, and the gradual suppression, elimination and eventual extinction, of defective stocks — those human weeds which threaten the blooming of the finest flowers of American civilization,” the Planned Parenthood founder wrote.

Sanger described eugenics as “the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political and social problems,” in a 1921 article.

“The most intransigent and daring teachers and scientists have lent their support to this great biological interpretation of the human race. The war has emphasized its necessity,” the Planned Parenthood founder added.

In the years following Sanger’s comments, Adolf Hitler attempted to create a superior race through eugenics, specifically seeking to eliminate Jewish people and gypsies — both of which he thought were inferior races.

Hitler’s Nazi Germany euthanized or lethally injected Germans with mental or physical disabilities and conducted horrific and often deadly experiments on prisoners in concentration camps under the infamous Josef Mengele, the “Angel of Death.”

Sanger also voiced support for the sterilization of those with mental disabilities and said in a 1923 article published in The Thinker, “A Better Race Through Birth Control,” that “some method must be devised to eliminate the degenerate and the defective,” adding that “these act constantly to impede progress and ever increasingly drag down the human race.”

“While I personally believe in the sterilization of the feeble-minded, the insane and syphilitic, I have not been able to discover that these measures are more than superficial deterrents when applied to the constantly growing stream of the unfit,” she wrote in the February 1919 article.

“They are excellent means of meeting a certain phase of the situation, but I believe in regard to these, as in regard to other eugenic means, that they do not go to the bottom of the matter,” she added.

Pro-Lifers Warn That Planned Parenthood Still Targets Black Communities

Pro-life activists and groups contend that Planned Parenthood continues to target black communities.

“Our investigations have shown Planned Parenthood accepting race based donations and this Black History Month, I remind the country that the abortion industry is uniquely racist and eugenic in its founding, ideology, and current business model,” Live Action Founder Lila Rose said in a February statement, noting that black women account for 38% of abortions performed in the U.S., though black women make up only 12% of the U.S. population.

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“Abortion giant Planned Parenthood has specifically targeted minority communities with its physical presence and heavy marketing in these communities, subsidized by our federal tax dollars,” she added. “It is time we fully defund Planned Parenthood and all abortion providers of federal and state taxpayer dollars and protect all preborn lives.”

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27: Thousands of people march on Constitution Avenue during the March for Life, January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. This year marks the 44th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case, which established a woman's constitutional right to an abortion. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Thousands of people march on Constitution Avenue during the March for Life, Jan. 27, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Ryan Scott Bomberger, founder of pro-life nonprofit The Radiance Foundation, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that “the pro-abortion Left wants to reinvent Sanger.”

Bomberger’s biological mother “rejected the violence of abortion” after she was raped and allowed Bomberger to be born and “adopted and loved instead,” he said.

“They try it repeatedly. Sanger’s anti-human worldview and devotion to the virulently racist American Eugenics Society cannot be revised,” Bomberger told the DCNF, adding:

“The totality of her writings and social activism were steeped in eugenic elitism and racism.”

Bomberger referred both to Sanger’s speech to the KKK, calling it “cleverly duplicitous,” and to her comments about “human weeds,” warning that Planned Parenthood carries on Sanger’s legacy today through another method.

“That method today? Abortion,” he said.

Planned Parenthood, Media Matters, Rewire News and The Nation did not respond to the DCNF’s requests for comment.

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