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Want to Fight Racism? Let’s Cancel Planned Parenthood

They're scrubbing Margaret Sanger's name off of one of their clinics. Yet her bigoted vision is interwoven into their entire mission.
Margaret Sanger
Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger. Credit: Getty Images

It’s 2020, baby. Names are getting scraped from buildings, statues are toppling, a bunch of stuff is catching fire, and you could get canceled tomorrow. A new day has dawned. We can giddily destroy even the dead on the guillotine of moral indignation. And with each head that rolls, an understanding grows that all people, living or otherwise, can be condemned and done away with should they not meet the fresh, improved ethos of the Great Progressive Edict. Nothing and nobody is safe in our quest to sanitize our scatological society. Not even, it appears, Margaret Sanger.

As of Tuesday, the renowned feminist and progressive founder of Planned Parenthood is getting the boot from the organization’s Manhattan clinic, where her name has long been associated with the building. The official reason is that they can’t seem to gloss over her dirty history of racist eugenicism anymore, so now they’re going to disown her.

It’s an interesting plot twist, because Sanger is the founder of the place. It’s also interesting because Planned Parenthood is still in operation and nothing has really changed from the way she ran things back in the early years.

It’s tempting to concede, at least, some logical consistency to the folks over on the left. After all, in the same way they’ve demanded the erasure of George Washington—despite his founding of the country—they’re finally acknowledging aloud that Sanger wasn’t merely a strong-headed, clear-eyed woman looking to give her fellow females a shot at escaping oppression. As pro-lifers have said for decades, Sanger was an unabashed eugenicist with a blatant record of racism. Like Alexandra DeSanctis wrote in National Review, “She promoted birth control as a means of limiting low-income and minority groups and proposed a regime of mandatory sterilization for those she deemed ‘feeble-minded.’”

Who was feeble-minded? Well, to her, probably a lot of people who had perfectly fine brains. And certainly black people were included in that assessment. She famously excoriated them as “human weeds” who were “to be exterminated.” Until recently, Planned Parenthood has had pretty good success in brushing that little ditty under the rug.

Yet in response to those who have refused to ignore it, Sanger apologists have chosen to shape those nasty intricacies into a narrative that paints her as a complicated woman whose whimsical interest in eugenics didn’t actually have anything to do with her commitment to providing birth control to the black women of America. There was a gulf between her two worlds of interest that simply couldn’t be bridged.

Of course, not even Sanger believed that. Justice Clarence Thomas made this evident in a piece at First Things, pointing out that Sanger “believed that birth control was an important part of the solution to these societal ills. She explained, ‘Birth Control … is really the greatest and most truly eugenic method’ of ‘human generation,’ ‘and its adoption as part of the program of Eugenics would immediately give a concrete and realistic power to that science.’ Sanger even argued that ‘eugenists and others who are laboring for racial betterment’ could not ‘succeed’ unless they ‘first clear[ed] the way for Birth Control.’”

But Planned Parenthood doesn’t want to be a racist organization anymore, so now they’re taking the tremendously redemptive step of, well, changing a name (which wasn’t even on the building). “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,” they told black people.

Except, obviously, they’re not really going to do that. Instead, as a means of rectifying past wrongs, they’re going to keep contributing to reproductive harm within communities of color. Margaret Sanger may have been fired, but make no mistake: she’s still working there. Black people aren’t getting any sort of recompense in this.

The black pro-life movement has been saying it for years: Sanger’s efforts in what she called the “Negro Project” have resulted in fewer people of color. The project, for those unfamiliar, was based on a Malthusian hope of reeducating the women—specifically in African-American communities—on the kind of lives available to them without children. Why? Certainly not to help them discover better lives. Why would Sanger care about “human weeds?”

She just wanted to have fewer of them. She got what she wanted, too. Now, over one third of all American abortions happen to black babies, despite the fact that black women comprise less than 15 percent of our population. Indeed, the rate of growth in black communities is slower than among most other major U.S. race and ethnic groups.

Now that Planned Parenthood has distanced itself from the ideology of its founder, they’re in the clear. Never mind that the premise of their entire existence is the ideology of a woman who saw people as something to be manipulated and rooted out. This is what the left is trying very hard to do everywhere: eradicate history, start fresh—a society cut off from its source and advancing toward the sun.

But canceling George Washington for owning slaves centuries ago does nothing to end racism today. To do that, we have to halt the wrongs we’re committing against blacks now. And canceling Margaret Sanger for her nasty eugenics obsession won’t stop the tragic gutting of black communities. Though ending Planned Parenthood certainly would.

Dr. Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King Jr., astutely noted that the damage to America’s black community can only be rectified with the end of what Sanger started:

My grandfather, Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr., once said, “No one is going to kill a child of mine.” Tragically, two of his grandchildren had already been aborted when he saved the life of his next great-grandson with this statement. His son, [Martin Luther] King once said, “The Negro cannot win as long as he is willing to sacrifice the lives of his children for comfort and safety.” How can the “Dream” survive if we murder the children? Every aborted baby is like a slave in the womb of his or her mother. The mother decides his or her fate.

Step away from the carefully crafted messages of Planned Parenthood’s PR professionals, and look at Sanger for who she clearly insisted she was. Once you do, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that the entire fabric of her organization is interwoven with her expansive, explicitly racist view of humanity. Yes, her name has been scrubbed in New York. But her ghost yet haunts the halls of that Manhattan clinic, nodding approvingly as black lives—which matter at any age—are cut short. Statements and blind eyes aren’t enough anymore. If Planned Parenthood earnestly wishes to do its part to mend what they’ve broken, they’ll close up shop altogether.

Emma Ayers is an editor and reporter in the Washington D.C. metro area. She has no Twitter for you to follow.