Last year, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York (PPGNY) announced that Margaret Sanger’s name would be removed from its Manhattan abortion facility. The founder of Planned Parenthood, Sanger’s legacy has come under increasing scrutiny for her racist, eugenicist beliefs. Now, they’re pushing a Manhattan community board to remove her name from a Manhattan square street sign as well.
PPGNY lobbied to remove the name “Margaret Sanger Square” at Mott and Bleecker Streets during a Community Board 2 meeting. Community Board 2 represents the West Village area of Manhattan. Merle McGee, the Chief Equity and Engagement Officer of PPGNY, introduced the motion. “We need to acknowledge, like many institutions, that we have to reckon with our history and our founder’s legacy,” McGee said during the meeting last month. “Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was a champion for birth control, which expanded bodily autonomy for many, including women of color, but Sanger also embraced eugenics, which was an ableist and racist philosophy to advance the birth control campaign.”
Surprisingly, some board members fought back against the resolution, trying to claim that Sanger’s legacy of supporting eugenics and racism is not valid.
“Many of the statements you just made about Margaret Sanger are highly controversial and a number of respected historians have debunked some of these things and demonstrated with detail that the connection between Margaret Sanger and eugenics is vastly inflated,” board member Cormac Flynn said.
Darlene Lutz, who lives in the community, went even further to fight the removal of Sanger’s name. “With all due respect, the 2021 resolution as written is an embarrassment to this Community Board and should be rejected and withdrawn,” she said. “The application presented to the Community Board was declared without fact, truth or context.”
A board member responded, “I would hope Community Board 2 members would not try to parse out how racist someone is.” When asked about her thoughts on the issue, McGee told the board that Planned Parenthood had done extensive research of its own and found Sanger to be connected to eugenic efforts.
Despite the defense of Sanger, there is no doubt as to her shameful background. Sanger had known ties to eugenicists, and not just in passing. Lothrop Stoddard, who believed that “non-white races must be excluded from America,” was the Exalted Cyclops of the Massachusetts chapter of the Klan, and also served on the board of Sanger’s American Birth Control League — which eventually became Planned Parenthood. Clarence Gamble was an ardent advocate of eugenics, fighting for laws mandating sterilization of the disabled, and was a director of both Sanger’s ABCL and Planned Parenthood boards. In a letter discussing the notorious Negro Project with Margaret Sanger, Gamble said,
“The mass of Negroes, particularly in the South, still breed carelessly and disastrously, with the result that the increase among Negroes, even more than among whites, is from that portion of the population least intelligent and fit, and least able to rear children properly.”
These were men Sanger tapped to serve on the boards of her organizations, not people she only met on rare occasions. As for Sanger herself, she was known to have spoken to the Ku Klux Klan, pushed experimental testing of birth control onto Puerto Rican women without their knowledge or consent, and approved the Buck vs. Bell Supreme Court decision, which allowed anyone deemed “unfit” to be sterilized without their consent. She herself argued that “undesirables” — such as minorities, the poor, the disabled, and the mentally ill — were “human weeds” who shouldn’t be allowed to “breed.”
Planned Parenthood has passionately denied that Sanger was a racist eugenicist until now. The Maggie Award, named after Sanger, was given out by Planned Parenthood each year to politicians, celebrities, and journalists who defend abortion, all of whom gushed over the honor of receiving an award named after Sanger. Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood’s current president and CEO, herself defended Sanger as recently as 2019. Planned Parenthood lauded her as a “trailblazer,” a “true visionary,” and a women’s rights hero.
And though Planned Parenthood has decided to change their tune on Sanger, their actions show that her mission itself is one the organization still embraces.
Planned Parenthood lobbies against laws that ban eugenic abortions, has been caught on video accepting racially-biased donations, while Black women have complained that they have been pressured to be sterilized. Some sources claim that Planned Parenthood intentionally places its abortion facilities in minority neighborhoods. Hundreds of former employees have also accused Planned Parenthood of systemic racism and white supremacy, affecting staffers and patients alike. Other staffers reported discrimination because they were pregnant.
These words from Planned Parenthood on disavowing Margaret Sanger’s legacy will remain meaningless, so long as the abortion corporation continues to focus on ending vulnerable lives and targeting the disenfranchised.
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