- The CEO of Planned Parenthood on Saturday called out the organization’s founder for her racist past.
- Founder Margaret Sanger has a history steeped in the advancement of the eugenics movement.
- She has, for example, publicly supported forced sterilizations on unconsenting adults to rid “unfit” characteristics.
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Planned Parenthood CEO Alexis McGill Johnson called out the organization’s founder in a New York Times op-ed, saying she had ties to “white supremacist groups and eugenics.”
Margaret Sanger, founder of the reproductive healthcare nonprofit organization, is known for having devoted her entire life to expanding access to birth control. Since her death, some historians and biographers have been characterizing her as a proponent of the eugenics movement, meant to control populations for “desirable” characteristics while weeding out so-called undesirable ones.
“Up until now, Planned Parenthood has failed to own the impact of our founder’s actions. We have defended Sanger as a protector of bodily autonomy and self-determination, while excusing her association with white supremacist groups and eugenics as an unfortunate ‘product of her time,'” Johnson wrote in the op-ed.
“Until recently, we have hidden behind the assertion that her beliefs were the norm for people of her class and era, always being sure to name her work alongside that of W.E.B. Dubois and other Black freedom fighters. But the facts are complicated,” she continued.
Sanger once spoke to the Ku Klux Klan in New Jersey to hype up birth control, noted Johnson while pointing out examples of her shamed history. She also “endorsed” a Supreme Court decision that led to state-controlled sterilization attempts, Johnson said. This decision allowed the government to sterilize people it deemed “unfit” to have kids, usually without their consent or knowledge.
Germany also established a forced sterilization program in the 1930s, which Sanger supported.
“I admire the courage of a government that takes a stand on sterilization of the unfit and second, my admiration is subject to the interpretation of the word ‘unfit,'” Sanger said in praise of the program. “If by ‘unfit’ is meant the physical or mental defects of a human being, that is an admirable gesture, but if ‘unfit’ refers to races or religions, then that is another matter, which I frankly deplore.”
Johnson’s comments mark the latest in a broad push to distance Planned Parenthood from Sanger’s legacy.
Last year, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, located in Manhattan, announced it would drop Sanger’s name from its building “as a public commitment to reckon with its founder’s harmful connections to the eugenics movement.”
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