Refreshed after acknowledging the awesomeness and the beauty in ferrofluids? Good.
Now we’re back on track to discussing the legacy of Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood and overall a very controversial figure. We’ll be discussing who she is, what her legacy means, her viewpoints, and how the anti-choice camp chooses to acknowledge her legacy.
Margaret Sanger was a reproductive rights activist, fighting for a woman’s right to have control over her pregnancy. She was active in the Socialist Party in the 1920s, partially because of influence from her rather radical and leftist husband and partially because of her experiences as a nurse in the East Side. Some of her friends include Upton Sinclair, Mabel Dodge, John Reed, and other well known Socialist activists at the time.
As a nurse on the East Side, she was witness to numerous women who were forced into giving birth, attempted to self-induce an abortion, or miscarried, all because these women were not aware of safe contraception. Unfortunately, due to the Comstock Laws (and similar laws), giving out information about contraceptives through the mail was considered “obscene”, and hence illegal. Furthermore, information about contraceptive was nigh impossible to find, and doctors would simply tell women to abstain from sex if they didn’t want babies—not exactly something that’s going to help your marriage/relationship of course. Women were dying from unsafe, self-induced abortions, and Sanger wanted to prevent that by giving these women the power to control her reproductive system via contraception/safe and legal abortion.
Sanger believed that the only way to have these laws changed was to challenge and break them, and she did so with great aplomb, publishing various publications such as Family Limitation and The Women Rebel. She spent 1914 in exile in Europe, after jumping bail for violating the Comstock laws with The Women Rebel. There, she learned about the diaphragm, which she thought to be more effective. She and her friends began to smuggle diaphragms to the United States, and Sanger began to publish The Birth Control Review.
In 1916, she opened a family planning/birth control clinic. Nine days later, she was arrested for distributing contraceptives, and put on trial. The first judge convicted her (saying that women do not have the right to have sex and not expect to get pregnant—woman as incubator much?) and sentenced her to 30 days in a workhouse after Sanger stated that she could not respect the law. In 1918, an appeal got a ruling that allowed doctors to proscribe contraception.
Soon after, she opened the American Birth Control League, and traveled around the world to help set up birth control clinics and promoting birth control.
In 1929, she formed the National Committee of Federal Legislation, and tried to lobby for legislation to overturn laws restricting both contraception and information regarding contraception. Unable to lobby successfully, she ordered a diaphragm from Japan, which was confiscated by the US Government. The resulting trial led to a 1936 decision that overturned the portion of Comstock that prevented doctors from getting contraception. The birth control movement was gaining pace and wider acceptance, and the American Medical Association added contraception into the medical school curriculum. Then came the Birth Control Council of America, which merged with the American Birth Control League to form the Birth Control Federation of America (which later renamed themselves to Planned Parenthood).
She then helped to found the International Planned Parenthood Federation, helped get funding for Gregory Pincus to develop the birth control pill, and died in 1966, one year after Griswold v. Connecticut legalized birth control throughout the US.
Now, she wasn’t perfect. Sanger found common cause with people promoting eugenics, and she spoke at KKK rallies. She herself thought light skinned people were superior to darker skinned people, although she would not tolerate bigotry among her staff. However, one must clarify two things about her:
- Sanger herself did not like abortions. She focused on contraception in order to have less abortions. In fact, if you don’t believe me, in her book Woman and the New Race, she herself states that “while there are cases where even the law recognizes an abortion as justifiable if recommended by a physician, I assert that the hundreds of thousands of abortions performed in America each year are a disgrace to civilization”. Even more damning for the anti-choice camp, she herself stated that she believed that abortions “was taking life” and that “contraception […] is the only cure for abortion”. (Citations for the two quotes: Margret Sanger: An Autobiography and Family Limitation, respectively.)
- Even though Sanger advocated negative eugenics, she is simply one person within a whole movement. One person does not a whole movement make, and many (if not most) people who advocate for choice do not embrace eugenics. Although Sanger is one of the faces of the birth control movement, people who advocate for reproductive rights do not have to agree with everything that a famous face says/believes. Women (and feminists in general) are not monolithic! Nor are we members of a hive mind!
With that said, let’s get back to the article that we’re here to discuss today: “Reproductive Racism”, an article on the bottom of page 8 of Do You Have an Open Mind?.
The vision of Planned Parenthood, founded in 1916 by Margaret Sanger, became the working arm towards eugenic goals.
Okay, let me say one thing, anti-choice people. What would become Planned Parenthood was NOT founded in 1916, it was founded in 1939 with the merging of the American Birth Control League and the Birth Control Council of America. If you’re going to give a history lesson, get your facts right or otherwise you discredit and put a shadow over your entire movement. And gods forbid that the anti-choice camp needs even more discredit to their name!
I mean, it’s not like we don’t know how to Google factoids to check your claims, right?
The stated vision was “reproductive freedom” through legalization of contraceptives to be used by the wealthy and imposed Eugenics Sterilization Laws as “birth control” for everyone else.
Uh, no. In case you forgot, anti-choice people, Sanger started to crusade for reproductive freedom after seeing so many women suffer and die from unwanted pregnancies—miscarriage, self-induced abortions, and birth that eventually killed them. She started her work for ALL women, not just the rich people.
Also, sterilization laws? Do they think that Planned Parenthood ties women’s tubes or something in their clinics? Are they REALLY that obtuse?
The organization most responsible for propagating the bigoted concepts of “Social Darwinism” is the American Eugenics Society.
Which reflects on the modern day Planned Parenthood Federation how, again?
Or Planned Parenthood in general?
Despite claims that Margaret Sanger was not a racist or an anti-Semite, the fact remains that “she openly welcomed the worst elements of both into the birth control movement”.
Oh, Sanger did have racist beliefs. Nevertheless, she did not tolerate bigotry among her staff, and she did not allow people to refuse to work in interracial projects. Furthermore, in regards to eugenics, she rejected euthanasia of those that were considered “unfit” to breed and considered the decision up to a woman and not the state.
Also, seriously, at the time eugenics was widely accepted among academia. The reason why eugenics legislation passed was because of wide acceptance among the United States population. It wasn’t just Sanger, it was most everybody at the time. This isn’t really an excuse, since eugenics is wrong, but simply historical context.
Also, just because Sanger embraced eugenics at the time does not mean that the movement still embraces it. On the contrary, like I said, many if not most people advocating for reproductive rights in the modern day reject the idea of eugenics.
Historical documents prove that Planned Parenthood acted as the willful arm of the American Eugenics Society […]
[…] and developed a plan, the “Negro Project”, as a propaganda program to infiltrate the black community with a “birth control for health” campaign through their civic leaders. […] Her call for [the unfit’s] sterilization is well known and likely to have been the motive behind her “Negro Project”.
Just saying, but the Negro Project came to be because the black community asked her to do it. Seriously.
You really can’t scream “REPRODUCTIVE RACISM!!11!!” if the people who you claim are being discriminated against were the ones requesting birth control clinics.
Racial targeting by abortion providers, Planned Parenthood being the foremost national provider of abortions, has demonstrably resulted in a disproportionate amount of minorities obtaining abortions.
Correlation doesn’t equal causation.
If you recall Part 1 on this subject, I went over some statistics regarding abortion. Some of the statistics include the fact that the majority of women who seek abortions are at most 199% above the poverty line and that over 40% are below 100% the poverty line.
You know which groups are more likely to be under the poverty line, thanks to decades of discriminatory policies and whatnot?
And of course, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out some other possible reasons why poorer people might be more likely to seek abortions, right?
According to updated census reports, African Americans are no longer the largest US minority population.
And this is somehow abortion’s fault?
Gee, it couldn’t be because of the introduction of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, which got rid of those pesky racial quotas that had been in place since the 1920s and which effectively blocked most other minority populations from immigrating to the US. Or that Hispanic isn’t a race but a ethnicity, which means that we have black Hispanics and white Hispanics and others, right? Or that people are being more educated, hence choosing to not have kids. Etc.
Stay tuned for Part 5, where I discuss how those in the anti-choice camp are anti-women and how they absolutely abhor rape/incest survivors.