Planned Parenthood foundress Margaret Sanger died before Roe v. Wade opened the doors to abortion on demand in the U.S., but her eugenic ideology laid the groundwork for what the abortion industry has become today.
Angela Franks, PhD, has studied Sanger’s life and writings extensively. She presented a workshop about Sanger’s life about her during the National Right to Life Convention last week in Herndon, Virginia. Franks explained how Sanger’s eugenic goals to “weed out” the “unfit” continue in America today through the abortion industry.
Sanger died in 1966, seven years before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on abortion in Roe v. Wade. Franks said Sanger was not heavily involved in the 1960s-era push to legalize abortion, but her work certainly influenced the pro-abortion movement.
Throughout her life, Sanger advocated for birth control and sterilization in ways that devalued certain groups of human beings, Franks explained. Like many eugenicists of her time, she basically reduced people to their genetic makeup, lumping people into “good genes” and “bad genes” groups, Franks continued. It’s something the abortion industry still does today, though in a less obvious way, when it fights laws that protect unborn babies with disabilities from abortion.
Sanger and other eugenicists used terms like “breeding” to demean certain groups of human beings, lowering them to the status of animals, Franks said. She referred to something Sanger wrote in 1921 as evidence of this: “Possibly drastic and spartan methods may be forced upon society if it continues complacently to encourage the chance and chaotic breeding that has resulted from our stupidly cruel sentimentalism.”
The term “sentimentalism” that Sanger used referred to charity for the poor, something Sanger believed just perpetuated the “bad genes,” Franks said. Essentially, Sanger’s idea is to let them die out, she continued. In one of Sanger’s books, the Planned Parenthood foundress described charity as cruel because it encourages poor, “unfit” people to have more children, Franks explained.
Sanger was a negative eugenicist, meaning that she wanted fewer children from the “unfit” — the poor and the physically and cognitively disabled, Franks said. Positive eugenicists encouraged the “fit” – people graduating from ivy league colleges and those in high society – to have more children, but Sanger didn’t agree with this either, Franks added.
“Sanger had no desire to encourage anybody to have children,” Franks said.
Control, not choice, was Sanger’s key word when it came to matters of reproduction, she said. Franks said Sanger believed that some of the “unfit” should be forced to not reproduce.
Sanger wrote in “The Pivot of Civilization” that the government should “attempt to restrain, either by force or by persuasion, the moron and the imbecile from producing his large family of feeble-minded offspring.”
Sanger supported the U.S. government when it began coerced and forced sterilization programs – a black mark on our nation’s history, Franks said. Sanger even suggested that the government offer “bonus or yearly pension to all obviously unfit parents who allow themselves to be sterilized” – a form of coercion, Franks pointed out.
“You’re offering them a year’s salary to be sterilized? That’s coercion,” Franks said.
Sanger’s goal, like many eugenicists, was to “weed out the unfit,” she said. She pointed to one particularly dehumanizing piece of Sanger’s writing from 1925: “… Their lives are hopeless repetitions. All that they have said has been said before; all that they have done has been done better before. Such human weeds clog up the path, drain up the energies and the resources of this little earth. We must clear the way for a better world; we must cultivate our garden.”
The eugenics movement largely died out after Americans began learning of its influence on the Holocaust in Nazi Germany in the 1940s; but eugenic ideals, or lack thereof, live on today in Sanger’s Planned Parenthood, Franks said.
Today, Sanger’s “eugenic legacy shows itself in who Planned Parenthood ‘serves,’” Franks said.
She said poor and minority women are the abortion giant’s top clients, and pointed to data showing that African American women poll more pro-life than white women but are five times more likely to have abortions. More than 16 million black babies have been aborted since 1973, she said.
In total, Planned Parenthood aborts more than 320,000 unborn babies a year. Franks said Sanger succeeded where many other eugenicists of her time failed – in founding Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion business.