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Planned Parenthood of Greater New York will remove Margaret Sanger’s name from a clinic in Lower Manhattan due to her “harmful connections to the eugenics movement.”
In addition, the organization is in discussions with city leaders in New York City to remove her name from a street sign that is near its officers on Bleecker Street, where it has hung for two decades, the New York Post reported.
Sanger, then a public health nurse, founded the national organization around 1916, opening the first birth control clinic with her sister and a friend in Brooklyn.
Sanger has long been seen as a feminist icon for her pathfinding views regarding a woman’s right to choose birth. A Time magazine expose in October 2016 — the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Brooklyn clinic — noted that she viewed such choice as a fundamental women’s rights issue.
“Enforced motherhood is the most complete denial of a woman’s right to life and liberty,” she wrote in 1914.
But her views on the now-discredited eugenics movement are proving to be her undoing at a time of ‘wokeness’ throughout the Left.
Specifically, eugenics was the promotion of selective breeding to weed out so-called undesirable humans. In 1921, Sanger wrote that “the most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective.”
What’s more, though some historic figures like Martin Luther King Jr. have praised Sanger’s work, her efforts to promote eugenics — and her birth control clinics — were very often focused on people of color and those who were disabled.
“She did focus her efforts on minority communities, because that was where, due to poverty and limited access to health care, women were especially vulnerable to the effects of unplanned pregnancy. As she framed it, birth control was the fundamental women’s rights issue,” Time noted.
In a statement, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York called the removal of Sanger’s name long overdue.
“The removal of Margaret Sanger’s name from our building is both a necessary and overdue step to reckon with our legacy and acknowledge Planned Parenthood’s contributions to historical reproductive harm within communities of color,” said the organization’s chairwoman, Karen Seltzer.
“Margaret Sanger’s concerns and advocacy for reproductive health have been clearly documented, but so too has her racist legacy,” Seltzer added.
In 2016, the national Planned Parenthood organization issued a fact sheet denouncing Sanger’s beliefs but adding that her birth control efforts were well-intentioned.
That said, as Time noted, eugenics was eventually adopted and practiced by Nazi Germany as well, the Post reported.
And historians who have examined Sanger’s complicated past note that several of her statements and views are troubling.
For instance, allegedly as an attempt to downplay her ‘targeting’ of black communities, Sanger developed the “Negro Project” — a plan to reach out to black leaders and religious figures in particular so they could help her dismiss any suspicions about the family planning clinics she wanted to open throughout the South.
“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,” she wrote in a December 1939 letter to Dr. Charles Gamble.
“It seems to me from my experience…that while the colored Negroes 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,” she added.
In 1926, Sanger accepted an invitation to speak to the “women’s branch of the Ku Klux Klan,” commenting later that she well-received and had gotten additional offers to speak to white supremacist groups.
“In the end, through simple illustrations I believed I had accomplished my purpose. A dozen invitations to speak to similar groups were proffered,” she wrote.
“’They are…human weeds,’ ‘reckless breeders,’ ‘spawning… human beings who never should have been born,’” she noted in “The Pivot of Civilization,” a sort of manifesto she wrote discussing immigrants, the poor, and problems with philanthropy.
“Organized charity itself is the symptom of a malignant social disease…Instead of decreasing and aiming to eliminate the stocks [of people] that are most detrimental to the future of the race and the world, it tends to render them to a menacing degree dominant,” she added.
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