December 3, 2010 ( – In 1957, an aging Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood and the international birth control movement, agreed to an interview with CBS News’ Mike Wallace. In stark contrast with the sympathetic reception Sanger could expect to receive today in a network television interview, Wallace hammered Sanger with difficult questions and caught her in contradictions, while Sanger squirmed, fidgeted, and denied statements she had made only a week earlier in pre-interview discussions with CBS staff.

This fascinating and sometimes chilling interview with Sanger can be found at the website of the Harry Ransom Center, which is located at the University of Texas, and which has published all of the installments of the Mike Wallace Interview from 1957 and 1958.  In the interview, Sanger expounds upon her views on a variety of topics, including birth control, eugenics, population growth, homosexuality, marriage, and religion.


Among the more revealing moments is Sanger’s explanation of the “greatest sin” of having children who violate her eugenic standards, and “have no chance … to be a human being practically.”

Asked if she believes in sin, Sanger tells Wallace: “I think the greatest sin in the world is bringing children into the world, that have disease from their parents, that have no chance in the world to be a human being practically, delinquents, prisoners, all sorts of things, just marked when they’re born.  That to me is the greatest sin that a people can commit.”

However, pressed by Wallace about her beliefs about “sin,” Sanger at first refuses to answer, and then balks at recognizing infidelity as such. “I don’t know about infidelity, it has so many personalities to it, and what a person’s own belief is, I couldn’t generalize,” she says, after Wallace insists that she respond to the question.

Sanger balks even more when Wallace begins to cite statements she has made publicly, even to his own staff, claiming that she has been misquoted. At first Sanger rejects the claim made in the woman’s magazine Redbook, in reference to contraception, that “immunity from parenthood encourages promiscuity particularly when unmarried persons can so easily avail themselves of the [birth control] devices.” But Wallace then reads Sanger’s own words from a Philadelphia Daily News article from 1942, encouraging the use of birth control to avoid “illegitimacy.”

“You were not advocating Christian morality but rather ways for single women to avoid bearing illegitimate children,” Wallace tells her. “I doubt it,” Sanger responds curtly. “I don’t believe I ever made such a remark.”  Sanger also denies telling a CBS staff member that “it should be made illegal for any religious group to prohibit dissemination of birth control, even among its own members.” “I don’t think I said it quite that way,” she protests.

Given Margaret Sanger’s role in founding Planned Parenthood, one might expect the interview to mention abortion, but the topic is only addressed in passing. When the interview was conducted in 1957, abortion was illegal throughout the United States, and Sanger always claimed to oppose the practice, as did Planned Parenthood at that time.  However Planned Parenthood would go on after Sanger’s death in 1966 to become the biggest abortion provider in the world, focusing mainly on the impoverished groups whom she had once referred to as “human waste.”

Asked about her belief in God, “in a sense of a divine being that rewards or punishes after death,” Sanger responds, “I have a different attitude about the divine. I feel that we have divinity within us.  And the more we express the good part of our lives, the more the divine within us expresses itself.”  She claimed to be Episcopalian.

See the whole interview here.

NOTE: to understand the real Margaret Sanger, as opposed to the sometimes dishonest and incomplete impression given in her interview responses to Wallace, see George Grant’s biography of Margaret Sanger “Killer Angel”