In the early days of Planned Parenthood, the Black community was highly suspicious of efforts to promote birth control among their neighborhoods, with many accusing the corporation of “Black genocide.” Planned Parenthood, aware that it had to hide its real agenda of eugenics through efforts like the Negro Project, chose to recruit Black leaders to quell this unease. At that time, civil rights activist Malcolm X encouraged Planned Parenthood to move away from using the term “birth control” — which evoked ideas of “control” in the Black community — to the term “family planning.” The Black community’s suspicions weren’t without cause… and the Black community should remain suspicious of Planned Parenthood. After all, how can an organization founded on the idea of halting the reproduction of certain people groups ever disavow its racism while it still disproportionately kills the children of minority women?
The corporation’s founder, Margaret Sanger, was an avowed eugenicist who met with members of the Ku Klux Klan, sought to merge her organization with the eugenics movement, and advocated for the eugenic sterilization of those deemed “unfit.” She was so steeped in eugenics that she recruited leaders from that movement for her American Birth Control League (later Planned Parenthood) board, including Lothrop Stoddard, a white supremacist and the Exalted Cyclops of the Massachusetts chapter of the Klan. One of Sanger’s financiers was Proctor and Gamble heir Clarence Gamble, also a staunch advocate of eugenics, to whom she wrote about her plan to use Black ministers to further her agenda in the Black community. In her letter to Gamble, she insisted that recruiting a Black doctor as well as Black ministers to the “family planning” cause was an absolute must:
… [W]hile the colored Negros have great respect for white doctors they can get closer to their own members and more or less lay their cards on the table which means their ignorance, superstitions and doubts. They do not do this with the white people and if we can train the Negro doctor at the Clinic he can go among them with enthusiasm and with knowledge, which, I believe, will have far-reaching results among the colored people…. His success will depend upon his personality and his training by us.
The ministers work is also important and also he should be trained… as to our ideals and the goal that we hope to reach. We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.
Given the recent civil unrest triggered by Minnesota police officers’ murder of a Black man, George Floyd, Planned Parenthood now appears to be slowly purging Sanger’s name from its facilities, after embracing her wholeheartedly for over 100 years. The move follows a separate purge of Sanger’s name from its prestigious Margaret Sanger Award. Over the course of its history, Planned Parenthood awarded many influential Black leaders, and added Black men and women to its board to thwart accusations of racism. Today, the abortion corporation’s acting president is a Black woman. And yet, none of this erases the fact that the corporation embraced abortion due to efforts by a eugenicist—past president Alan Guttmacher, a former VP of the American Eugenics Society.
In a June 1 tweet, Planned Parenthood vowed to “[r]eckon publicly with [its] racist history,” writing, “To our Black patients, supporters, and colleagues across the country and the Black community whose lives, health, and safety are constantly under attack, Planned Parenthood stands with you. #BlackLivesMatter… Our commitments to you are to: → Reckon publicly with our own racist history….”
Planned Parenthood has had ample opportunity to address its racist past, yet it hasn’t. In 2016, Planned Parenthood wrote on Facebook, “As we enter our second century, this is an important moment for Planned Parenthood to acknowledge histories of racism and ableism.” In 2017, then-Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards wrote at Medium.com, “People of color have led the fight against racism for generations, but we all have a responsibility to tear out the foundations of racism wherever we find it: in ourselves, our communities and our organizations, including Planned Parenthood.”
Planned Parenthood facilities have displayed Sanger’s name for years
If Planned Parenthood had been sincere in 2016 or 2017, why did the corporation keep Sanger’s name on its abortion facilities— even now, three to four years later? As of June 9, 2020, Planned Parenthood’s website still referred to the New York City facility on Bleecker Street as the Margaret Sanger Center. Sometime within the past two weeks, the website has changed the center’s name to Manhattan Health Center of NY. This facility is operated by Planned Parenthood Greater New York. PPGNY’s CEO recently came under fire from employees who accused her of “abusive behavior, systemic racism, and financial mismanagement.”
In May of 2018, the Margaret Sanger Center of Tucson was renamed the Southern Arizona Regional Health Center of Tucson. That facility had borne Sanger’s name since 1971, and had honored Margaret Sanger as “Woman of the Century” in 1965.
As of June 22, 2020, Planned Parenthood of Arizona’s “About Us” page still paid homage to Sanger as “a pioneer and founder of the family planning movement in the United States.”
Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes in New York also bore Sanger’s name as recently as 2017:
Planned Parenthood has long boasted of its founder on its website
On its website, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) paints a positive image of “nurse, educator, and founder” Margaret Sanger, writing that her “activism changed the world,” neglecting to mention her eugenic philosophies:
Planned Parenthood’s fundraising efforts bear Sanger’s name
Weeks after Planned Parenthood’s tweet, Planned Parenthood of Florida website still listed the Margaret Sanger Legacy Society among its “giving societies,” funded by the “legacy gifts” of wills, real estate, charitable trusts, and more, “to plan for the future growth and stability of [their] programs.”
Planned Parenthood of Minnesota also continues to use Sanger’s name for its donors’ group, the Margaret Sanger Society.
Planned Parenthood of SE Pennsylvania’s 2019 Annual Report honors top donors with a notation in its “Margaret Sanger Circle,” a group recognized by this name for years. The “Margaret Sanger Circle” has also been a distinction for donors to other Planned Parenthood affiliates, including Houston, Utah, Massachusetts, Louisiana, California, and New York. Planned Parenthood continues to display Sanger’s face on its 100 Years Strong website, and in 2018, Planned Parenthood of Northern California quoted Margaret Sanger without a hint of apology for her racist past.
Today, this eugenics-based organization, which still targets the Black community, has become the largest abortion provider in the nation, committing nearly 40% of all abortions in the U.S. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women account for 38% of reported abortions, while Black Americans make up just 12% of the U.S. population.
While Planned Parenthood attempts to slowly purge Sanger from places of honor within its organization, it is clear that her legacy of eugenics continues. These recent name removals and changes in leadership are quite possibly just more window dressing for an organization that has always existed to rid the world of those considered by the ruling elite as “unfit.”
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