The Editors

What pro-aborts can no longer deny: Margaret Sanger supported eugenics

The Editors
The Editors
Image

January 10, 2011 (PublicDiscourse.com) - Herman Cain’s remarks concerning Planned Parenthood’s promotion of abortion to blacks thrust the organization and its founder once more into the spotlight. Congressional attempts to defund Planned Parenthood had already generated publicity. When Hillary Clinton received Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger Award in 2009, she was prompted to make an apologia for accepting the award because of questions raised at a House committee hearing. In each of these cases, the controversy centered on the eugenic beliefs of Margaret Sanger (1879–1966), Planned Parenthood’s founder.

To a Sanger supporter, the accusation of eugenics touches a nerve. To understand this, one must grasp the subconscious syllogism underlying the emotional reaction: Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood are progressive feminist institutions. Progressive feminism cannot coexist with eugenics, which is a malady of the right-wing. Therefore, Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood are free of eugenic contamination. QED.

Something new has happened over the last ten years, however, that challenges such easy assumptions, and both Cain’s and Clinton’s language reflected it. No one with any command of the facts can deny any more that Sanger was in some way a eugenicist.

Click “like” if you want to end abortion!

First, scholars of women’s history have begun examining the feminist movement with more objectivity, producing a new literature that is less afraid to detail the unsavory aspects of feminist history. Historical work on eugenics has also begun to shift: Historians of the subject have long recognized Sanger’s involvement in eugenics, but had not sufficiently acknowledged her importance for the movement.

Second, as positive as these improvements in scholarship are, probably the most crucial factor in bringing about a more realistic and balanced assessment of Sanger and eugenics has been the internet. Sanger’s own words are more accessible than ever (a process aided by the multivolume edition of The Selected Papers of Margaret Sanger). Planned Parenthood is simply unable to deny convincingly the truth about its founder.

And what is that truth? Margaret Sanger was many things admirable: a vibrant personality, a brilliant organizer, a canny reader of the temperature of the times, a woman who built powerful institutions in a man’s world. But she was also many things ugly and even despicable: an egotist who frequently clashed with others; a free-love advocate who had a dizzying number of affairs and who hurt many men as a result; and a eugenicist who argued that “birth control is nothing more or less than the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit, of preventing the birth of defectives or of those who will become defective.”

In light of this reality, Jean H. Baker’s book, Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion, is a bit of a scholarly throwback. While it is readable, lively, and in many ways realistic about its subject, it is deeply unsatisfying as an ideological analysis.

Even Planned Parenthood has had to drop the denials of Sanger’s commitment to eugenics and now urges us all instead to avoid judging those of another historical era. After all, as Hillary Clinton basically said in 2009, Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, and he still did some pretty nifty things. Take what you like and leave the rest, that’s the new approach to Sanger.

So Baker cannot simply ignore the fact of Sanger’s eugenic preoccupation, but she doesn’t seem to feel obliged to try to make much sense of it. Instead, she seeks that convenient refuge of the relativist: “nuance.” Critics of Sanger (this reviewer included) are chastised for not having “a more nuanced view of her perspectives and the reasons she accepted aspects of a mainstream movement dedicated to improving human beings.”

Well, fine. While it’s hard to find “nuance” in a worldview that calls organized charity “a malignant social disease,” it would at least be entertaining to read someone trying to do so. Instead, regarding eugenics, what we get with Baker is an exhortation to nuance (in the Introduction) and then an avoidance of the issue for most of the remaining 300 pages. When she does address eugenics, she does so superficially. She acknowledges that Sanger was a “promoter” of eugenics, yet, in describing her motivation, the most she can muster is a variation of the mere-pragmatics defense: “In an effort to gain support, [Sanger] signed on to negative eugenics.”

Baker further tries her hand at nuance by claiming that Sanger rejected the “standard eugenic proposition that heredity was absolute.” Unfortunately for Baker, there was no such standard eugenic line. Only the most unsophisticated eugenicist would have claimed such a thing, while most scholarly eugenicists (such as Frederick Osborn) knew very well by the 1920s that nature and nurture interacted in the production of human traits. Ironically, in her Introduction, Baker accuses Sanger’s critics of an inadequate knowledge of the eugenics of Sanger’s day, a defect that she herself exhibits in spades.

The book’s treatment of the population-control movement reveals a similar failure to understand the history of eugenics. Baker writes that by the late 1920s, Sanger “had determined that population experts, like eugenicists, were emerging as an expanding pool of potential supporters.” In fact, population experts were eugenicists, plain and simple. Beginning with the first to use the term “eugenics,” Francis Galton (1822–1911), down through the eugenicists with whom Sanger worked in the 1920s through the 1960s, all early population “experts” were eugenicists. The discipline of demography was shot through with eugenic assumptions. As feminist and Marxist historian Linda Gordon observed, “The eugenics people slid into the population control movement gracefully, naturally, imperceptibly … There was nothing to separate the two movements because there was no tension between their two sorts of goals.”

Why were the two movements so closely aligned? The key can be found in a popular slogan of the eugenics/population-control crowd: “Quality, not quantity.” Eugenicists believed that, in order to improve the race, fewer people (only the so-called “fit”) should reproduce. In its 1927 Buck v. Bell decision, written by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., the Supreme Court ruled that compulsory sterilization of the “unfit” was allowable under the Constitution, enabling American states to sterilize, on a far greater scale, those citizens deemed unfit, without their consent and sometimes even without their knowledge. (In the end, a majority of states allowed for involuntary sterilization, leading to over 60,000 sterilizations by 1967.) Between birth control and involuntary sterilization, the eugenics movement had a plan for dealing with the “unfit” in America.

But what to do about the great mass of people outside her borders? As Sanger confided in a letter to Clarence Gamble in 1940, India was “a bottomless sink … They need birth control on a large scale and it should be continually prodded into the national consciousness daily, hourly, for at least five years.” The Rockefeller family, deeply immersed in eugenics, financially supported the earliest eugenic population-control organizations, such as the Population Council. This was done quietly, however; as Frances Hand Ferguson, a former president of Planned Parenthood in America, observed, “Certainly the Rockefellers didn’t want to be known as a family who was telling little brown Indians not to have babies.” Population control was a gussied-up eugenics—with a passport.

Baker’s neglect of this history makes her treatment of eugenics and population control relentlessly shallow and unreflectively ideological. For example, she states confidently that “too large a population blocked opportunities for growth and stalled industrialization in what was now dubbed ‘the Third World.’” This is the language of someone who takes the formulations of eugenic demographers at face value instead of questioning how their ideological agenda might have compromised their scientific endeavors. In fact, as recent articles in Public Discourse have observed, the world is well able to absorb its roughly seven billion people. Economists such as Julian Simon have argued that the healthy population growth of India is one reason why its economic growth has been so robust. Of course, the point of Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion is not to give a course on contemporary theories of population economics, but a nod of acknowledgment toward these larger issues would have greatly deepened the book’s analysis.

Disappointing as these defects are to the informed reader, the most unsatisfying aspect of the book is its naïveté about Sanger’s model of sexual liberation. Baker, who earned her B.A. in 1960, has ideas about sexuality that seem not to have budged from a sunny, 1960s-era cluelessness about the glories of uncommitted sex. This, despite the divorce revolution, HIV/AIDS, pornification, the sexualization and abuse of children: in short, the sum total of physical and emotional devastation wrought by the sexual revolution. Instead, the reader gets platitudes about Sanger’s affairs as a “life-affirming inspiration” or as “spontaneous, self-affirming alliances with men.” Baker is too good a historian to overlook the heartache that such behavior caused Sanger’s two husbands, but she seems unable to grasp how promiscuity harmed Margaret Sanger herself. The lonely woman at the end of her life, addicted to Demerol and resentful of the loss of celebrity, is the result of a life spent using people and, in turn, being used.

In sum, Baker cannot think outside the liberal academic box. She makes the utterly conventional assumption that eugenics was not what it in fact was: a progressive movement through and through. She does not understand that eugenics is all about one thing: control, the control of benighted masses by an enlightened elite. As Baker correctly emphasizes (but does not understand), Sanger insisted that contraception be called not family planning but birth control. Margaret Sanger’s was an ideology of control: birth control (baited with promiscuity), enabling a eugenic control of population—the progressive application of biopower. It is an ideology that tempts totalitarian elites—wherever they might be found on the political spectrum.

Angela Franks, Ph.D., is the author of Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy (McFarland, 2005) and the Director of Theology Programs for the Theological Institute for the New Evangelization (TINE) at Saint John’s Seminary in Boston. This article originally appeared on Public Discourse and is reprinted here with permission.

Help us expose Planned Parenthood

$5 helps us reach 1,000 more people with the truth!


Share this article

Advertisement
Featured Image
Kim Davis refusing to issue marriage license to same-sex couple Frame from Times video
Mass Resistance

Kim Davis jailing only beginning of what is in store for America as revealed in June 27 “gay” magazine

Mass Resistance
By

September 4, 2015 (Mass Resistance) --The judge told her that she’ll stay in jail until she’s willing to change her mind -- and go against her conscience and faith. He said that he’d review the situation in a week. The judge said that he jailed her because fining her  “would not bring about the desired result of compliance”.

There are approximately 125 county officials throughout Kentucky who can issue “gay marriage” licenses. But the judge was adamant that every county official must be forced to do it and that religious freedom cannot be allowed, despite the First Amendment.  “The idea of natural law superseding this court’s authority would be a dangerous precedent indeed,” he said.

See video of Kim Davis, turning away very angry same-sex couple demanding a marriage license.

In 2004, 75% of Kentucky voters passed a State Constitutional Amendment restricting marriage to one man and one woman. On Thursday, Sept. 3, County Clerk Kim Davis was sent to jail by U.S. District Judge David Bunning because she refuses to issue “gay marriage” licenses, a decision which she says is rooted in her strong Christian faith.
 

The post-“gay marriage” revolution

Most pro-family people didn’t see the chilling article that appeared in The Nation, a major left-wing magazine, the day before the U.S. Supreme Court “gay marriage” ruling came out. The article outlines where the LGBT movement is going after “gay marriage.”

The Nation article, “What’s Next for the LGBT Movement?”, quotes four high-profile LGBT activists who reveal that “gay marriage” was never their final goal. The LGBT movement will not be stopping to rest, they say. Their plan is to delegitimize and crush all opposition to their agenda everywhere in America – particularly in the churches -- no matter how small.

Some of the things the article outlines:

  • “Dis-establish marriage.”  “Gay marriage” was simply a stepping stone. Their actual goal is that there be no formal marriage rules at all. This means group marriages are next, then incestuous marriages, and later even marriages to minors. It would simply be up to the people directly involved to decide.
  • Pass strong LGBT “non-discrimination” laws across the US. These are the laws that force bakers to bake “gay marriage” cakes or face huge punishments. Such laws would also force schools to include LGBT indoctrination. Most states still do not have the onerous laws the LGBT movement demands. The activists refer to those states (mostly in the South and Midwest) as “zones without rights” in their propaganda.
  • Ban all “religious liberty” laws. They consider religious liberty to be a dangerous ploy to “undermine all civil rights laws” that must be stopped at all costs. All people must be forced to follow the LGBT agenda, with no exceptions.
  • Demonize pro-family conservatives and silence all dissent. They plan to direct “massive amounts of funds” to “expose and defeat the right wing” across America.
  • Push a radical political agenda. They plan to leverage their power to support Marxist economic policies, the right to “early term abortion,” and similar policies.


Starting to happen

Last month the Denver City Council moved to deny the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain permission to do business at the Denver Airport because the company’s president said he does not agree with “gay marriage.” One Council member labeled the president’s pro-marriage beliefs “discriminatory political rhetoric,” and must not be allowed to make profits from the city’s airport. (Chick-fil-A restaurants have never been accused of actually discriminating against anyone.)

The national homosexual group Human Rights Campaign is already raising millions of dollars to fight religious freedom laws around the country.

And of course, there’s the upswing of left-wing hate and demonization of religious people. The day after Kim Davis was jailed, the Boston Globe prominently published an op-ed article titled “Kim Davis follows the footsteps of George Wallace” which states, among other things, that “Davis is just the latest in a long, infernal line of fanatics to contort their so-called faith into an excuse for hatred and division.” The Left’s hatred of religious people is visceral, and now it’s coming to the forefront.
 

Lots of hypocrisy

The jailing of Kim Davis by Judge Bunning, like most of the Left’s actions, has more than a whiff of hypocrisy. When San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom began illegally ordering county clerks to issue “gay marriage” licenses in 2004, or in 2009 when California clerks (and the Governor) ignored the Prop 8 ruling against issuing “gay marriage” licenses, no judge intervened at all. 
 

Cowards and compromisers

It pains us to say it, but for decades the pro-family movement has been crippled from gaining ground by cowards and compromisers, from top to bottom. Don’t get us started on what led to the disastrous the Supreme Court “gay marriage” ruling.  And it continues with the Kim Davis issue.

While Kim Davis sits in jail, five of her six deputy clerks shamelessly have agreed to abide by the judge’s wishes and started issuing “gay marriage” licenses. (The one holdout is her son.) According to news reports, starting the very next day they were issuing them quite cheerfully, even shaking the hands of the newly “married” homosexual couples.

A disturbing number of pro-family and church leaders across the country have sided with the Federal Judge, saying that Kim Davis should go to jail for “not following the law.”  (Actually there is no “law” on the books – it is only a court ruling. Nor could the judge cite such a law.) 

Even the National Review has published an article saying “[R]eligious-liberty protections cannot act as a bar to gay couples: If the law permits a U.S. citizen to get a license, there must be a way for the gay couple to access it, with their dignity intact."
Wonderful. What a lame movement we're in!
 

What can good people do?

We can certainly see what’s coming up. It’s a hardcore take-no-prisoners approach. We must react accordingly. What most of our movement has tried hasn’t worked and isn’t going to work.

MassResistance believes that their whole program must be confronted. Using what resources we have, we believe in taking the offensive. This means challenging that movement everywhere we can. First and foremost means not holding back on telling the unabashed truth, no matter what the consequences. (For example, most conservatives are squeamish about talking about the well-documented medical and psychological destructiveness of homosexual behavior.)

The LGBT movement wins when we become afraid to confront them. 

This article was originally published on the website of Mass Resistance and is re-published with permission.

Advertisement
Hillary Clinton
Shutterstock
Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben

, ,

Obama and Hillary support Christian clerk’s arrest over gay ‘marriage’

Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben
By Ben Johnson

ROWAN COUNTY, KY, September 4, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- The front runner for the Democratic presidential nomination believes that Kim Davis deserved to be jailed.

Shortly following Kim Davis' arrest on Thursday afternoon, Hillary Clinton retweeted a story about Davis' arrest for refusing to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples, saying all elected officials "should be held to their duty to uphold the law - end of story."

The White House seconded that assessment. The punishment - jail time, rather than a fine - was "appropriate," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said during his daily press briefing on Thursday.

The Obama administration spokesperson went on to say that "the principle of the rule of law is central to our democracy."

Calls to imprison Christians who refuse to participate in same-sex "marriage" have intensified on the Left since the late June Supreme Court decision that imposed same-sex "marriage" on the nation.

As Davis was taken out of the federal court room to her jail cell, gay activists yelled, "Love won! Love won!"

Shortly after her arrest, opinion writer E.J. Montini wrote that Davis "was found in contempt of court and sent to jail. Good."

Their position could hardly contrast more sharply with those of some Republican presidential contenders.

Mike Huckabee is holding a #ImWithKim rally in Kentucky on Tuesday to support Davis, who remains in jail today.

Sen. Ted Cruz has said the arrest - which was ordered by a Republican-appointed federal judge - constituted "judicial tyranny."

Not all Republicans agree, though. Chris Christie said that he would demand that clerks participate in the public recognition of same-sex "marriage" regardless of their religious convictions. Lindsey Graham and Carly Fiorina have had similar sentiments.

Advertisement
Featured Image
Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben

, ,

Ted Cruz: Kim Davis’ arrest is ‘tyranny’ intended to drive Christians from office

Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben
By Ben Johnson

ROWAN COUNTY, KY, September 4, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - The arrest of Kim Davis has sent shock waves throughout the nation - and a clear message: Christians have no place in the public square, according to Sen. Ted Cruz.

When the deeply religious clerk was hauled off to jail Thursday afternoon, "judicial lawlessness crossed into judicial tyranny," Cruz said.

Same-sex "marriage" was imposed on the nation by a 5-4 Supreme Court judgment authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy. The arrest of Kim Davis on "contempt of court" charges was ordered by U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning, a George W. Bush appointment who is the son of former moderate Republican senator and baseball great Jim Bunning of Kentucky.

"Those who are persecuting Kim Davis believe that Christians should not serve in public office," Cruz said.

His analysis is shared by former Sen. Rick Santorum. He warned, "More and more people of faith will face the penalties Ms. Davis is now encountering if we do not make the necessary accommodations so people can not just worship but live out their faith in their lives."

Santorum called for passing the First Amendment Defense Act to prevent scenes of clerks being arrested, florists being fined, and bakers being forced out of business.

"This is wrong. This is not America," said Cruz, who recently hosted a Rally for Religious Liberty that featured many of those whose businesses have suffered for following their faith on the issue of sexuality. "I stand with Kim Davis. Unequivocally."

"I stand with every American that the Obama administration is trying to force to choose between honoring his or her faith or complying with a lawless court opinion," Cruz said. “I call upon every believer, every Constitutionalist, every lover of liberty to stand with Kim Davis."

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will literally do that, as he hosts an #ImWithKim rally in Kentucky on Tuesday to support Davis.

Cruz joins other Republican presidential candidates who support the Kentucky Christian clerk.

"I think it's absurd to put someone in jail for exercising their religious liberty," Sen. Paul, R-KY, told CNN on Thursday afternoon. "I think it's a real mistake to be doing this."

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida agreed, “There should be a way to protect the religious freedom and conscience rights of individuals working in the office.”

However, other candidates disagreed. Chris Christie said on Fox News Sunday that laws should be enforced against Christians who decline to participate in gay "marriages."

Sen. Lindsey Graham and Carly Fiorina similarly agree Davis should have issued the marriage licenses, regardless of her faith.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted that laws should be enforced, as she shared a story of Davis' arrest on Twitter.

Advertisement

Customize your experience.

Login with Facebook