By: Meghan Travaline
It is hard to believe our modern American society continues to support an organization founded in racism. But it does. It is also hard to believe this racist organization has established itself in so many neighborhoods, purporting to serve their citizens. But it has. And, who could imagine this racist organization is funded with taxpayer dollars? Unfathomable, but true. Why would taxpayers want to fund a group founded on the belief that certain people are “defective...human weeds” who should be suppressed, eliminated, and eventually extinct?
How can we let this happen? How did this happen?
In the early 20th century, Margaret Sanger began implementing her racist agenda through the founding of the American Birth Control League; this is what we know today as Planned Parenthood. After delving into the racist history of Planned Parenthood, it is incomprehensible such an institution still exists in America.
Sanger was concerned about the birth rate disparity between the “unfit and the fit.” She believed certain groups of people were reproducing too often. Sanger said the greatest sin was bringing children into the world who are “marked when they're born” as “delinquents” and “prisoners.”
In her 1920 book Women and the New Race, Sanger wrote about creating a strong race in order to achieve racial progress. She stated birth control is
“the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit, of preventing the birth of defectives or of those who will become defectives.”
Sanger believed the “development of womanhood must precede motherhood in every individual woman” in order to make racial progress. In other words, for members of a disadvantaged group to achieve racial equality, graduate from the working class, or break out of poverty, they should stop reproducing.
In 1930, Sanger opened a “family planning clinic” in Harlem, a largely black New York City neighborhood. She had previously attempted to open a clinic in the predominantly black neighborhood of Columbus Hill; however, the clinic did not see much success. Curiously, in 1932, Sanger’s Harlem Branch Birth Control Clinic decreased the price of contraceptives for black women only. This price drop is interesting because, regardless of race, the average income of its clients in 1931 was $16.00 a week to support a family of five. Also, the majority of the Clinic’s clients were white. One can infer she wanted to get black women in the door.
Also in 1932, Sanger argued for a Population Congress, a special department in the government to study “population problems.” The ultimate goal of this study was to control the population according to the overall fitness of individuals. Some of her main objectives were: raising the general intelligence of the population; keeping the birth rate low; preventing certain groups of people from reproducing; and closing immigration so that those whose “condition is known to be detrimental to the stamina of the race” would be barred entry into the United States. She believed in segregation and sterilization of “tainted populations” or those with “objectionable traits,” and wanted help from the government to achieve this.
In 1938, Sanger spoke to a women’s branch of the Ku Klux Klan. When writing about this speech in her autobiography, Sanger stated that she “accomplished her purpose…” and received a “dozen invitations to speak to similar groups….”
In 1939, the American Birth Control League became the Birth Control Federation of America. That same year, Sanger began “The Negro Project,” which provided birth control to black communities in the Deep South so they could “get a fair share of the better things in life.” In December of 1939, she penned a letter to Dr. C.J. Gamble, a promoter of eugenics and population control, stating, “we don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population…” So, she enlisted black community leaders to advance eugenics masked by women’s empowerment in the black community.
In 1942, Sanger’s organization became Planned Parenthood Federation of America. That same year, Planned Parenthood began a Division of Negro Service. Why did Planned Parenthood want to oversee and ensure that birth control was being given to black women throughout the United States, specifically at a time of segregation and racism in the United States? When looking at her history, one can conclude this feigned morality and push for “womanhood” was a disguised attempt at Sanger’s ultimate goal of achieving what she believed to be the perfect race.
In 1946, Sanger cited examples of black Americans having too many children to raise, care for, and support. She did not believe members of the black community were ready to have children. She believed birth control was the only way members of the black community could “get firmly established on the road to health and better living.” Of course the suggestions of better housing, diet, working conditions, and medical services would work, but not as well as birth control. Why? Because “[e]ven if the Negros lived in Utopia the need to plan their families would still be an urgent health and social measure.”
Sadly, Sanger’s efforts worked. Black Americans make up 13.4% of the population, but a 2016 CDC report showed that 38% of abortions were performed on black women. It should be noted these abortion numbers were self-reported, and many large states, like New York, did not report data to the CDC.
According to the 2016 CDC report, black women had the highest abortion rate and white women had the lowest. Black women aborted children at a rate 3.5 times more than that of white women. For every 1000 live births, black women had 401 abortions. Other minority groups, namely Hispanics, had an abortion rate closer to that of white women. Even more alarming, in New York City between 2012 and 2016 black mothers had more abortions than live births. Overall, black women average 1.6 more pregnancies than white women but are 5 times more likely to have an abortion. Why?
In 2012, the Life Issues Institute studied the locations of Planned Parenthood Centers throughout the United States. They found that 79% of Planned Parenthood’s surgical abortion facilities were within walking distance to minority neighborhoods. More recent research by Life Issues Institute indicated that 88% of Planned Parenthood’s 25 abortion mega-centers target women of color: 80% are in black communities and 56% are in Hispanic/Latino communities. Women who live in a metropolitan area have abortions at a rate near double those who live outside of a city. The organization’s eugenics and racism lives on.
Planned Parenthood’s abortions rates have been increasing since the Obama Administration loosened the restrictions on chemical abortions. In 2005, Planned Parenthood conducted 32% of abortions and, in 2016, they conducted 52%. According to Planned Parenthood’s 2019 Annual Report, the organization performed 345,672 abortions in 2018, which is the highest number reported under former President Cecile Richards. Planned Parenthood also provided 593,586 emergency contraception kits. They provided close to 100,000 more abortions than they did breast exams and Pap tests. Abortions accounted for 95% of Planned Parenthood’s pregnancy resolution services. The Susan B. Anthony List notes that over the past 10 years, for every adoption referral, Planned Parenthood performed approximately 137 abortions. At Planned Parenthood, “choice” is a Hobson’s choice: abortion or no help at all.
Over 61 million babies have been killed since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. More than 17 million of those babies were black. This is a shocking statistic considering that in a country of over 320 million, only about 44 million of the population are black.
The rates of abortion are terrifying. However, despite the increase of abortions at Planned Parenthood, abortion rates are declining throughout the country, likely due to clinics closing and the fact that majority of Americans oppose all or most abortions. This decline threatens the very core of Planned Parenthood and Margaret Sanger’s vision.
Planned Parenthood does not even attempt to distance itself from Sanger and her vision. In fact, they have a document available on their website hailing her as a “trailblazer” and a “woman of heroic accomplishments,” claiming that she was “moved by a deeply held compassion for the women and children whose homes she visited throughout the world….” Such claims about Sanger are not supported in fact, especially when she is quoted as saying, “[t]he most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”
Further, Planned Parenthood gives its “highest honor,” the annual Margaret Sanger Award, to “recognize leadership, excellence, and outstanding contributions to the reproductive health and rights movement.”
Planned Parenthood even addresses the fact Sanger spoke with a women’s branch of the Ku Klux Klan, noting them as a “mainstream movement” and “legitimate” organization in the 1920s.
Planned Parenthood has another document available on their website which attempts to legitimize Sanger’s goal of population control of the black community. This document states there is “no evidence that Sanger, or the Federation, intended to coerce black women into using birth control.” No, she and her Federation preyed on women from certain demographics, spewing lies and hate to convince them they should not have children. Somehow this has been sanctioned in America for 100 years.
This hateful, racist organization makes millions of dollars every year on abortions. They will not survive without providing abortions. Thus, Planned Parenthood’s present argument for the right of a woman to kill her child is still the same as Margaret Sanger’s reasoning for founding the Birth Control Federation of America: you cannot succeed in life as a young mother, a single mother, a poor mother, if you have too many children, or if you have children before it is “ideal.”
Is there anything more degrading and demeaning than telling a woman she cannot succeed in life if she does not kill her child; that she is unable to raise this child; that she is too young, unfit, too poor? Perhaps it is even more demeaning when another dimension is added to that sentiment: this child in your womb will not succeed because of his or her race. Pure, systemic racism.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.