By Dave Andrusko
There is without question no topic that more intrigues/angers pro-lifers than Planned Parenthood. As the largest abortion provider in the world, PPFA not only takes the lives of more than 322,000 babies annually (according to the Guttmacher Institute), its underlining ethos continues to reflect its founder Margaret Sanger.
Dr. Angela Franks, author of “Magaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy,” will talk about the history of Planned Parenthood, going back to its founder.
Dr. Franks will explain Sanger’s position on eugenics, the institutionalization of these ideas in Planned Parenthood and population control movements, and the continuation of eugenic ideas today.
In a separate workshop, Dr. Franks will help you understand about “Fighting Goliath: How to Take Aim at Planned Parenthood. Pro-lifers are not helpless against PPFA which trades on its unearned respectability. Pro-lifers can be successful “Davids” by showing the world Planned Parenthood’s true face.
If you have not yet registered for National Right to Life 2011, which takes place June 23-25, you still have a few days to take advantage of the reduced room rate. Click here for full information.
To give you appreciation of Dr. Franks’s scholarship, I’m reprinting a review of her book written by Dr. Randall K. O’Bannon, NRL’s Director of Education.
Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy
By Angela Franks
Reviewed by Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D.
Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy is a scholarly, yet readable analysis of the starkly eugenic ideology that drove Planned Parenthood founder
Margaret Sanger and those who shared her ideas. Angela Franks accomplishes a great deal in her book but perhaps nothing more important than helping the reader grasp why the movement slid so quickly and so easily into forced sterilization, abortion, and infanticide.
According to Franks, despite the organization’s popular image, the primary agenda driving Planned Parenthood and like-minded “family
planning” organizations/ population control agencies has never been women’s health or their liberation, but control of their fertility for eugenic purposes.
Franks presents extensive research (nearly a thousand different reports, articles, books, speeches, interviews, and news accounts) on “the
continuing life of these ideas in the organizations she [Sanger] founded by drawing on institutional documents and publications in order to show how her legacy – – the control of female fertility – – still inflicts suffering on women.”
One of the book’s chief aims is “highlighting the continuity between the eugenicists and the population controllers.” Built into the movement’s DNA was the desire to build a “better race,” which required reducing the fertility, by coercion, if necessary, of those they considered “inferior.”
In the eugenics parlance, Sanger was a fervent believer in “negative” eugenics – – improving the human race by preventing the “lesser breeds”
from reproducing. Eugenicists thought of people as if they were plants and were confident Mendel’s laws could be applied to breed “better” human beings.
Too many researchers, Franks contends, have failed to take Sanger’s eugenic commitment seriously. They prefer to see it as a fad she dabbled in but abandoned as her clinics took off. The facts say otherwise.
At least 23 of the 50 members of the National Council of Sanger’s American Birth Control League (founded in 1921), the precursor to today’s Planned Parenthood, were also members of the American Eugenics Society or public supporters of the eugenics agenda. Eugenicists believed that many of the world’s economic and social ills were a result of “overbreeding” of the poor or “feebleminded.”
An article by Sanger in her journal, The Birth Control Review, put it this way: “[T]he most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the overfertility of the mentally and physically defective.”
But what would happen if these women did not share Sanger’s views?
That same 1921 article goes on to warn ominously, “Possibly drastic and Spartan methods may be forced upon society if it continues complacently to encourage the chance and chaotic breeding that has resulted from our stupidly cruel sentimentalism.”
Such convictions led colleagues and Sanger’s ideological allies to push for mandatory sterilization laws in the U.S. and elsewhere. They were adroit at creating legal fictions in which certain individuals could “voluntarily” consent for others.
Sterilization programs sprung up in California, Virginia, Alabama, North Carolina, and other states from the 1920s on. Franks points out that up to a quarter of all Native American women were sterilized by the federally funded Indian Health Service in the 1970s, many without their knowledge or consent. One Oklahoma tribe, the Kaw, was effectively wiped out when all “pureblooded” women of the tribe were sterilized.
Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy gives considerable space to the strategic efforts of Sanger and her allies to gain government support and funding for the eugenics agenda and some of the horrific consequences that ensued. While they shared common cause (and, as Franks points out, many common friends) with several of the German eugenicists who laid the “scientific” foundation for the Nazi “race hygiene” project which sterilized, and later killed, so many Jews, American eugenicists, as Franks puts it, “became more overtly nationalistic” with the onset of WWII and pitched their agenda as critical to the war effort.
One pamphlet dated from 1941 claimed that 40% of all draftees were rejected for physical or mental unfitness, illustrating what they argued were the dangers uncontrolled fertility posed to national defense.
Franks recounts how Planned Parenthood and related groups later adapted their rhetoric to appeal to Cold War concerns, and then to the War on Poverty. They gained allies in the U.S. government by constantly harping on “demographic” or population concerns.
They claimed that poverty in the U.S. and in developing nations was due, not to discrimination, poor education, lack of economic opportunity, corrupt government, or other factors, but to the excessive fertility of the “less fit” lower classes. Soon, the U.S. was subsidizing domestic “family planning” agencies, such as Planned Parenthood, and making its foreign aid dependent on the adoption of population control measures.
Lobbied heavily by the same organizations and individuals, the United Nations also climbed aboard the population control bandwagon in a big way. The end results of this eugenic effort and control ideology, Franks shows, were programs such as China’s “one-child” policy, brutally enforced by the Chinese government and subsidized with U.N. family planning money.
The administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush have all ruled that the U.N. Population Fund is ineligible for U.S. funding, precisely because of that agency’s involvement in China’s coercive program.
Beyond ordinary coercions, such as cash bonuses to officials and individuals for meeting fertility quotas, Franks describes mandatory regular gynecological exams to check for pregnancy, jail cells and operating rooms at government family planning offices where the noncompliant were detained, sterilized, and forcibly aborted. The homes of those who might seek to evade government policies and hide unauthorized pregnancies or births were razed.
With Sanger’s population control ideology at full flower, even being born offered no guarantee of safety. Because of the premium on the birth of males under China’s one-child policy, Franks wrote, “Chinese baby girls are smothered, drowned, choked, and abandoned, and the women who bear them are often beaten or divorced.” Ratios of female to male children in China and Southeast Asia are far skewed from world averages because of sex selection abortion and infanticide.
These critical facts, and a great deal more that would prove useful to the scholar or the pro-life activist, can be gained from Franks’ accessible writing and thorough research. Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy details Sanger’s ideas, her allies among the social elite, and the history and inner workings of the various organizations they helped to build.
Anyone wanting to understand how organizations that claim to be about families and parenthood can be so hostile to motherhood and so adamantly pro-abortion should buy and read this book.