Dr. La Verne Tolbert is an accomplished professor, author and outspoken advocate for adoption and foster care. She is also a former Planned Parenthood board member turned staunch pro-life advocate who admits that at one time she hated children. Her journey to the truth led her to become a role model for children and an outspoken representative against the agenda of abortion and Planned Parenthood, which she says targets the Black community.
Early in her career, Tolbert, who then went by the name La Verne Powlis, landed a job as editor/reporter for Family Circle Magazine and went on to become the first Black beauty editor of Brides Magazine, where she claims she lived a “very glamorous life in the beauty world.” (In 1979, she authored her first beauty book and became a spokesperson for L’Oreal.)
“Why is it more necessary for women in the inner city to have the ‘right’ to abortion?”
Due in part to her success as a magazine writer, after joining the Coalition of 100 Black Women in New York, Dr. Tolbert was asked to join the board of Planned Parenthood. Tolbert had been raised in church and her father was a pastor, but she writes, “I knew little about abortion.” In her book she also describes being sought after to join Planned Parenthood: “When a speech I made received media coverage back home, I was greeted with my organization’s applause along with invitations to join two boards – The Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) and Planned Parenthood.”
“In 1975, when I was asked to be a part of the board, I thought, this is a wonderful way for me to volunteer and help the women in my community. This is a great way to give back,” Dr. Tolbert told an audience.
Dr. Tolbert often points out that abortion had just been legalized a few years earlier and many people, including her, were uneducated about abortion and the development of the preborn child in the womb.
Dr. Tolbert says that while she was with Planned Parenthood, she discovered that at one time, the state of New York’s Health Department required a death certificate for each baby that was aborted. “And I thought, death certificates? Well a death certificate is only required if somebody dies.”
“And so, the information that I had learned that it was just a ‘blob of tissue,’ a ‘mass in the uterus,’ was not true.”
“Later on, as I began to read, I asked a [Planned Parenthood] board member how abortions were performed – I protested that this was traumatic for the mother and her baby. But, I was corrected and told, ‘It is not traumatic!'”
She described her first Board meeting: “I remember walking into the first board meeting. And I was filled with anticipation. I was so excited to be there. And I took the bus from my job and the magazine where I worked and took it over to the Margaret Sanger Center.”
Dr. Tolbert writes that almost immediately she began to notice board members arriving to meetings in style:
Over time I noticed that several of the board members arrived in chauffeured limousines. Who were these men of wealth, I wondered, and why were they so interested in the people who lived in the inner-city?
Once in the building, I walked past the clinic that served primarily African-American and Latino girls. The elevator took me upstairs to an imposingly large boardroom, and I took my seat with the striking observation that I was the only person of color in the room. The majority of board members were male, and the handful of women appeared to be much older than my twenty-seven years.”
Today, we know that many of these “well-to-do men” as she described them later, had been indoctrinated with the ideology of eugenics and population control, and Dr. Tolbert soon realized this as well, writing about it in her book, “Keeping You & Your Kids Sexually Pure”:
During the course of my five-year tenure, we received a lot of literature. Most discussed population control and the concern for the growing number of people in the world—poor people in the United States and in developing countries. As the population grew, natural resources like air, water, and food were shrinking. I soon understood why the full name for this organization was Planned Parenthood World Population. I struggled with the question, “Which population are they trying to control?” As a black woman, the question kept coming back to me like a boomerang. I wondered why abortion was more necessary for my ethnic group, why this organization fought so hard to give us this particular “right” when the rights for better education, better jobs, and better housing seemed paramount.
Tolbert has publicly shared her experiences of being the only African American on the Board of Planned Parenthood at that time, saying, “I would wonder, why are they so concerned about abortion being a right for us? Why is it more necessary for women in the inner city to have the ‘right’ to abortion?” She added at another event:
And I thought, what about housing and jobs and schools?… And every time I asked the question, the boomerang came back to me. And, I realized that Planned Parenthood-World Population [as it was called at that time] had one goal. And that was to control the population of those people they considered to be dysgenic – those people who should not be procreating.
Tolbert added, “The reason I was asked to be on the board was because I was the daughter of a pastor. And they realized the importance of those in the religious community preaching to our own community the ‘right’ to have an abortion.”
“Part of our responsibility as board members was to become familiar with abortion procedures. We read documents detailing how abortions were performed, and for me, that’s when the viability debate ended,” Dr. Tolbert wrote.
In her book, she describes how reading details of the horrific D&E (dilation and evacuation) abortion brought her to tears:
The dilation-and-evacuation abortion literally tears the baby apart limb by limb…. I was horrified. I came to the next meeting shaking with disbelief and filled with protestations. Holding up the papers, I said that these procedures were traumatic for both the mother and her baby.
An older woman sitting directly across from me looked me coldly in the eye and said in a low, rabid voice, “It is not traumatic!” I was stunned by her insensitivity and chilled by her icy stare.
I was on the verge of resigning from the board. Now that I understood what was really involved, I wanted no part in this abortion business. But the question, “Who will speak up if I leave?” kept me in a quandary. Eventually deciding to remain, I determined to be a thorn in their side and often cast the lone opposing vote.
Dr. Tolbert had nightmares about the babies Planned Parenthood aborted. “We’re not just a board of directors. We are death’s directors!” she wrote.
We were told never to use the words embryo… or fetus… we were instead to use the inanimate terms “mass of tissue” or “contents of the uterus.
We were never to call a teenage girl a “mother.” We were to refer to her as a “woman” no matter how young she might be…Students were to be assured that parental notification or consent was not required for any of Planned Parenthood’s services.
While serving on Planned Parenthood’s board from 1975-1980, Dr. Tolbert became pro-life. When she retired from the board, she began to speak out against Planned Parenthood’s eugenics agenda. Dr. Tolbert’s career as a magazine writer began to take off and she relocated from New York to Los Angeles. She can be seen here in a 1978 article published by Black Enterprise — ironically featured with Planned Parenthood’s first Black president, Faye Wattleton:
“I thought I had seen everything. This is murder.”
Dr. Tolbert often recalls the day when the reality of what she had participated in hit her. She said at that moment, she fell to the floor and began weeping before God in repentance. Tolbert later recounted that she had been abused as a child and as a result she came to realize that she hated children. She struggled for many years as a young Black woman, but despite all her success, Dr. Tolbert admitted recently, “I just wanted to die. I had this gaping mother wound and I didn’t know how to fix it. Worst of all, I hated children — or at least that’s what I thought. Even though I was raised in the church and my dad was a pastor…. I still wondered if God was real enough…. I cried out to God to heal my pain.”
Then, after years of wondering why she hated children, she began to cry out to God for help. “I woke up, and something was different.” Shortly after this, Tolbert got a job at an elementary school, writing curriculum. She also ended up becoming a counselor… for children. Tolbert found herself walking through hallways and having children running up to her, hugging her… and suddenly she realized that she no longer hated children. “I thought, I’m not afraid anymore. I don’t hate children anymore…. God’s truth changed my life and impacted every area of my world.”
Today, Dr. Tolbert spends most her time instructing churches on how to educate and teach children. She is a favored speaker at pregnancy resource center events and is part of the National Black Pro-life Coalition. But as a former Planned Parenthood board member, Dr. Tolbert also says she remains focused on educating her community on the truth about Planned Parenthood. In a 1989 issue of Ebony Magazine, Tolbert (then Powlis) wrote scathing rebuke against abortion. It read in part:
I suggest that every pro-abortionist investigate just exactly who sits on these boards to so vigorously uphold “our” right to abortion. And if the finger is pointed to population control, ask yourself this next question: Just what population are “they” trying to control?
…And why is abortion more necessary to Black women? Can we honestly believe that when our children are dying in the streets because of the proliferation of drugs in our communities, when education for Black boys and girls is constantly and categorically inferior, when housing and employment opportunities for women of color still scrape the bottom of the barrel- can we be so naive to believe that the same “they” who hold us down with one foot will stand up for us with the other? What if the monies spent to kill babies by abortion, were instead, targeted to keep the kids on our streets alive?
…If Black life is so valuable, why are we killing our babies?
In 2011, for the very first time, Dr. Tolbert saw a video of an actual abortion. “I thought I had seen everything,” she stated emotionally. “… I saw that baby’s little hands and the little feet ripped out of the cervix of that woman. This is murder! It must end!”
She added, “We are not a population that needs to be controlled. We must control ourselves. If we don’t walk into Planned Parenthood they cannot kill our babies….”
“There is no way to justify funding Planned Parenthood. Its roots are racist.”
Dr. Tolbert said that since her time on Planned Parenthood’s board she has extensively researched Planned Parenthood and its founder, Margaret Sanger, a former member of the American Eugenics Society:
One book in particular, Grand Illusions, The Legacy of Planned Parenthood by George Grant, confirmed what I had experienced and taught me much, much more. In it I learned about the Negro Project, which was Margaret Sanger’s directive that Planned Parenthood target African-American pastors. It dawned on me how valuable they considered me to be since I was a pastor’s kid!
I now understand more about the philosophical roots of the woman and the organization she launched.
Dr. Tolbert later wrote about her findings:
In her [Sanger’s] autobiography, she expresses disdain for the poor, whom she calls the wretched of humanity. Eugenics—the improvement of the race through controlled breeding—identifies certain ethnic groups as dysgenic, meaning they are biologically defective or deficient and therefore unworthy of procreation. Sanger’s mission was to “stop the multiplication of the unfit…[for] race betterment” to guarantee “a cleaner race.” “Birth-control,” said Sanger in 1920, “is nothing more or less than the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit, or preventing the birth of defectives, or of those who will become defectives…
What began with Sanger’s Birth Control Federation in 1916 had, by 1960, become a national movement….
The organization in place, opportunity surfaced when African American women, who were perceived to be particularly fecund or fertile, became the focus of the government’s national family planning efforts. Reducing the size of traditionally large black families was a priority that eventually would impact other minorities as well.
Tragically, Dr. Tolbert said she also learned how the United States government has funded this Black genocide, telling CBN, “It is our government that hires Planned Parenthood to provide abortions to Black women in the inner city.”
Tolbert added in her writings, “Sanger’s personal mission alone did not propel Planned Parenthood to such national status. To do so involves a shared goal, multiple committed partnerships, and the sustained dedication of financial resources—a monumental strategy that only the United States government could achieve.”
“There is no way to justify continuing to fund Planned Parenthood. Its roots are racist!” she stated in 2015.
“Planned Parenthood targets minorities for abortion with the specific goal of keeping down (or lowering) the birthrate of Black babies…. Over twenty million African American babies have been aborted,” she added.
Dr. Tolbert has co-edited a book with Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., entitled, “Life at All Costs: An Anthology of Voices from 21st Century Black Pro-Life Leaders.” The book details national efforts to end abortion and protect the traditional family. She sits on the board of Too Many Aborted and is also an advocate for abstinence education and teen pregnancy prevention. Dr. Tolbert is also President of Teaching Like Jesus Ministries Inc., a para-church ministry equipping leaders in the local church.
In March 2013, Dr. Tolbert recently received the Priscilla Award from Biola University during National Women’s History Month. In 2010, she was awarded a commendation by the County of Los Angeles for her efforts with the Department of Children and Family Services to find permanency for older children who are being raised in foster care. She also champions adoption in pulpits across America and invites pastors to partner with her program, Covenants for Kids, where volunteers drive children who are living in foster care to church.