Jan 11, 2016
This 22 January will mark the 43rd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's handing down of their decision in the controversial case of Roe v. Wade which guaranteed the right to abortion in the United States. It seemed as if this was an appropriate time to take a couple weeks to discuss the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, and the history of eugenics in the United States.
The vast majority of this two-part series comes from the work of Dr. Warren Carroll, and permission to use it was generously given by Dr. Andrew Beer at Christendom Press. The great majority of the words used are those of the late Dr. Carroll or paraphrasings thereof.
If you're unfamiliar with what eugenics is, you might want to pause and read up on it. The tl;dr version is thatit's the idea of breeding 'better people.' It's the sort of thing that the Nazis were all about when they were exterminating Jews, Romani, the mentally-challenged, etc. The idea of eugenics didn't start with Hitler and the Nazis, though. The early years of the Twentieth Century sparked a eugenics craze, the results of which we still see and live with today.
Born Margaret Higgins in New York in 1883, she attended school and became a nurse in 1899. Three years later, she married the wealthy architect William Sanger, and had three children. After their marriage, Margaret Sanger began to hob-nob with rich intellectual folks, and soon fell into Socialism and Moral Relativism. In her newsletter, The Woman Rebel, she referred to marriage as 'slavery,' and preached the idea of 'voluntary associations to replace marriage.
She divorced William in 1921, and in 1922, married multimillionaire James Noah Slee. In her prenuptial agreement, however, she demanded that they each have separate homes and that she would only see him if he made an appointment through her personal secretary. Meanwhile, she often was unfaithful to him, and found herself in man 'voluntary associations,' even while spending her husband's money on both the birth control and eugenics movements.
Sanger became editor of of the Birth Control Review in 1917. By the early 1920s she was promoting birth control for eugenic reasons, proclaiming that: 'More children from the fit, less from the unfit, that is the chief aim of birth control,' and 'Birth control: to create a race of thoroughbreds.'
In 1922, Sanger published The Pivot of Civilization, in which she warned against charity to the poor. Of those who offered free maternity care, she said that they:
'. . . encourage the healthier and more normal sections of the world to shoulder the burden of unthinking and indiscriminate fecundity of others; which brings with it, as I think the reader must agree, a dead weight of human waste. Instead of decreasing and aiming to eliminate the stocks that are most detrimental to the future of the race and the world, it tends to render them to a menacing degree dominant.'
Sanger called for inspectors to visit homes of large families because they were most in need of forced eugenic sterilization. In The Pivot of Civilization, she goes on to say that 'houses where you see the most children. . . Care the most likely places to find. . . feeblemindedness and degeneracy.' She was greatly afraid of a 'society. . . that is
breeding an ever-increasing army of undersized, stunted and dehumanized slaves,' as well as the 'sinster forces of the hordes of irresponsibles and imbeciles.'
During the 1930s, the Birth Control Review praised the eugenics policies of Nazi Germany and urged its imitation in the U.S. 'Ask the government to first take the burden of the insane and feebleminded from your back. Sterilization for these is the solution.' Two years later she gave details on how to bring about the ideal eugenic state in, Plan for Peace. She urged strict immigration laws to keep out 'aliens whose condition is known to be detrimental to the stamina of the race.' Next, all those with 'inferior genes' would be sterilized and segregated. They'd be placed on farms and 'work under competent instructors for the period of their entire lives.' Sanger estimated that 20 million 'healthy' people would then need to be organized to keep the 'feebleminded' 70% on their reservations and prevent them from breeding.
A 1933 article in Birth Control Review continued the push for eugenics by demanding the compulsory sterilization of 10 million Americans. She also praised the Nazi procession 'toward a policy that will accord with the best thought of eugenicists in all civilized countries.' She also printed an article by the director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Genetics, & Eugenics, Ernst Rüdin. This article, Eugenic Sterilization: An Urgent Need, warned against excessive compassion and love of one's neighbour so that 'we can accomplish our task to prevent the multiplication of bad stocks.'
By the mind-1930s, Sanger's genocidal views started to gain more mainstream acceptance. In 1934, she wrote in American Weekly that people should be required to obtain a license for parenthood. To get such a license, couples had to be 'financially able to support the expected child, have the qualifications needed for proper rearing of the child, and have no transmissible diseases.'
Sanger's scheming was insidious. In a 1939 letter, she admitted that she would 'hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities to travel through the South to propagandize for birth control.' In the letter, she also warns:
'We do not want word to get 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 their more rebellious members.'
When World War II had ended, eugenics advocates had to be more subtle. The World Population Congress that Sanger had organized in 1926 became Planned Parenthood, with the slogan 'Children by choice, not chance.' Money from eugenicists founded the International Planned Parenthood Foundation, and their headquarters in London was given to them free of charge by the English Eugenics Society.
Eugenicism is still a driving ideal behind Planned Parenthood. Woman on welfare are twice as likely to be sterilized as other women. The eugenics movement also maintains its emphasis on the perfect society. Contraception, sterilization, & abortion are still encouraged for parents who might pass on a genetic defect. A 1971 poll said that almost 70% of respondents believed that those people with low IQ should be sterilized.
Because of Margaret Sanger, sterilization, contraception, and the murder of children in the womb became 'respectable' during the late Twentieth Century. By the time she died in 1966, everyone had forgotten that she had been a eugenicist and staunch supporter of ethnic cleansing, and was hailed as a hero.
Resources for Social Studies Students & Teachers