Planned Parenthood’s spin doctors have a quandary. The moment is ripe for a serious discussion of the history of eugenics in America and how that harmful legacy continues. Yet as the nation’s largest abortion business, they are the one of the leading groups perpetuating eugenics today. This fact recently led more than 120 Black American leaders to call them out for targeting minority communities, for example.
In a new op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (below), my colleague, Charlotte Lozier Institute President Chuck Donovan joins his “Blessed Are the Barren” co-author Robert Marshall to expose the complete inadequacy of Planned Parenthood’s so-called “reckoning” with founder Margaret Sanger’s horrendous views. In light of the recent 6th Circuit decision upholding Ohio’s pro-life Down Syndrome Non-Discrimination Act, they challenge the abortion giant to drop its opposition to laws that protect unborn babies from lethal discrimination.
Because of you, we are able to have thought-provoking commentary published in prominent outlets like the Journal that deconstructs the fundamental weakness of the pro-abortion narrative. I hope you’ll enjoy reading the piece and share it widely. Thank you!
How Planned Parenthood Can Atone for Margaret SangerIf it really wants to transcend its founder’s eugenics legacy, it should disavow abortion due to a prenatal diagnosis of disability.
By Charles A. Donovan and Robert G. Marshall
April 21, 2021
Planned Parenthood is finally beginning to distance itself from the eugenics legacy of founder Margaret Sanger. But the belated acknowledgment is misleading at best. In an April 17 op-ed, Alexis McGill Johnson, the organization’s president, suggests Sanger distanced herself from the eugenics movement later in her career.
In fact, Planned Parenthood’s board overlapped with that of the American Eugenics Society for decades, even after Sanger’s retirement as president in 1959. In the 1960s, her successor, Alan F. Guttmacher, was the society’s vice president while also Planned Parenthood’s president. In 1952 Sanger helped secure a leadership position in Planned Parenthood’s German affiliate for Hans Harmsen, who had served as an officer in Nazi Germany’s Hereditary Health Court, which ordered mandatory sterilizations in the name of “racial hygiene.”
Sanger’s ideas about racial betterment—the elimination of “human weeds,” as she called them—weren’t merely the regrettably common views of “a different time.” She went further than most. In her proposed “baby code” of 1934, Sanger recommended that licenses to marry should be separated from licenses to have children. Article 4, meant to apply nationwide, stated: “No woman shall have the legal right to bear a child, and no man shall have the right to become a father, without a permit for parenthood.” Article 8 would have provided that “feeble-minded persons, habitual congenital criminals, those afflicted with heritable disease, and others found biologically unfit by authorities qualified [to] judge should be sterilized or, in cases of doubt, should be so isolated as to prevent the perpetuation of their afflictions by breeding.” These lines were written not at the beginning of Sanger’s career but nearly two decades after she opened her first birth-control clinic in Brooklyn, N.Y. Coercion lay at the core of her strategy to stop the propagation of “the unfit.”
A 1991 New York Timesarticle related the experience of Barbara Faye Waxman, a former employee at a Los Angeles Planned Parenthood clinic. “There was a strong eugenics mentality that exhibited disdain, discomfort and ignorance toward disabled babies,” said Waxman, who used a wheelchair and respirator because of a neuromuscular impairment. Planned Parenthood considered disabled infants to be “bad babies,” she said.
In 2021, Planned Parenthood continues to endorse abortion based on prenatal diagnosis of disabilities. What is that if not an updated application of Sanger’s vision and a century of Planned Parenthood practice?
Acknowledging this history, even after decades of whitewashing and attacking those who wrote about Sanger’s abhorrent views, is progress. But deeds matter more than words. Planned Parenthood can begin to redress its past by ending its current embrace of eugenic abortion. The organization has been involved in lawsuits against legislation in Ohio and Indiana barring abortion of babies suspected of having Down syndrome.
The explosion of civil-rights laws in the past 50 years has taken in virtually every marginalized group in American society. Yet the disabled have been conspicuously underprotected, even as the media rightly celebrates their achievements. Social media is filled with inspirational stories of men and women with Down syndrome establishing businesses, advocating for policy, winning Special Olympics events, becoming prom kings and queens. Yet countries like Iceland boast of having “eliminated” the condition—not via therapy, but by destroying those who have it.
Maybe Planned Parenthood is serious about abandoning eugenics. If so, it should endorse the idea that no baby should receive a death sentence because of a difficult diagnosis. Margaret Sanger might not approve, but your fellow Americans will cheer.
Messrs. Marshall and Donovan are authors of “Blessed Are the Barren: The Social Policy of Planned Parenthood” (1991).