On Friday, the Smithsonian Institution opened a new exhibition titled “Girlhood (It’s Complicated)” at its Natural Museum of American History. It was created to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage “by exploring the concept of girlhood in the United States.” One issue: the suffragists were pro-life yet the exhibit features Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, a known eugenicist whose organization has become the largest abortion provider in the U.S.
The motivation behind the exhibit was to show the ways girls have changed American history in the areas of politics, education, work, health, and fashion. Sanger’s portion of the exhibit is called “Girls as a Health Hazard, 1910s.” According to Breitbart, the Smithsonian Institution makes the claim that girls have always been told what to do with their bodies and refers to Sanger as “a writer and nurse” who “advocated for girls to know and control their own bodies — but only certain girls.”
While the exhibit features information about forced sterilization programs and a photo of Black women protesting those programs, according to Breitbart, the exhibit only notes that Sanger “believed that women who were poor or who had mental disabilities should not have children in order to promote a ‘healthy’ society.”
The Smithsonian Institute glosses over Sanger’s discrimination against underprivileged women and children, and blatantly ignores her organization’s racist history, which even Planned Parenthood recently admitted. Instead, the exhibit excuses Sanger’s eugenic beliefs as “popular in Sanger’s time,” and refers to her as “complicated.” While America is in the midst of a growing push to end racism and to denounce any historical Americans who held racists ideas, the Smithsonian Institute seems to handle with kid gloves the woman whose ideas and plans led to the deaths of millions of Black American children.
Black pro-life leaders from across the U.S. recently signed a letter to Planned Parenthood pointing out the hypocrisy of the organization in claiming to oppose racism while targeting Black women for abortion. “Despite constituting only 13% of the female population, Black women represent 36% of all abortions, and Black women are five times more likely than white women to receive an abortion,” the letter states. “In some cities, like New York, more Black children are aborted every year than are born alive.”
“This is no accident. Across the country, Planned Parenthood’s surgical facilities target minority communities for abortion. In fact, 79% of Planned Parenthood’s surgical abortion facilities are located in or near communities of color,” the leaders continued. “Can Planned Parenthood really claim to care for Black lives while remaining complicit in the targeting of Black pregnant women?”
The Smithsonian Institution has promoted Sanger in the past. In 2015, Black leaders demanded that the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., remove a bust of Sanger that was located in the same exhibit as civil rights heroes Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks. The leaders reminded the Smithsonian that Sanger’s “Negro Project” “sought to limit, if not eliminate, black births…”
“If Margaret Sanger had her way, MLK and Rosa Parks would never have been born,” said Bishop E.W. Jackson. “It’s an outrage the national museum would honor such a person and add insult to injury by putting her in the Struggle for Justice exhibit.”
Five years later, the bust remained, and in July 2020, Rep. Russ Fulcher (R-Idaho) called for the “troubling” bust to be taken down. The Smithsonian has ignored these requests and now has included Sanger in yet another exhibit.
The “world’s largest museum, education, and research complex” continues to celebrate a woman who believed Black Americans were afflicted with “ignorance” and who surrounded herself with white supremacists, eugenicists, and even a high-ranking member of the Ku Klux Klan.
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