Five takeaways from the disavowal of Margaret Sanger by Planned Parenthood’s largest affiliate

By Dave Andrusko

Did someone (me, for example) say five takeaways from the blockbuster decision  by Planned Parenthood of New York to remove Margaret Sanger’s name from its Manhattan health clinic? Honestly, I could name 20. 

This decision is genuinely historic. Here’s why (and here’s my five takeaways). And, by the way, to rub salt in the wound, the NYTimes Nikita Stewart wrote, “The group is also talking to city leaders about replacing Ms. Sanger’s name on a street sign that has hung near its offices on Bleecker Street for more than two decades.” As the saying goes, the “iconic” founder of Planned Parenthood  is dead to Planned Parenthood of New York which came to be when five area chapters merged last January.

#1. Nothing of this magnitude—especially coming from this powerhouse PPFA affiliate—takes place in a vacuum. Stewart talked to Merle McGee, the New York chapter’s chief equity and engagement officer, and wrote

The New York affiliate’s effort to disavow Ms. Sanger comes as it wrestles with internal turmoil, including the recent ouster of its executive director, Laura McQuade, in part because of complaints that she had mistreated Black employees. McGee said there was no connection between Ms. McQuade’s departure and the decision to remove Ms. Sanger’s name. The move, she said, arose out of a three-year effort to tackle racism internally and to improve relationships with groups led by Black women who have been wary of Planned Parenthood’s origins.

Yes and no. Yes, as we have written, there has been a spate of stories appearing in (of all places) the New York Times about ongoing turmoil explicitly or implicitly over the way the white leadership of PPF treats its employees of color. There is a history of bad blood between workers and management.

But no, in the sense that it defies commonsense after what just happened at Planned Parenthood of Great Plains and Planned Parenthood of New York to believe the timing was not directly affected by very recent events.

In June, when an open letter from 300 current and former employees of Planned Parenthood of New York demanded McQuade’s ouster, she was in big trouble. But her board initially stood behind her until a former lobbyist in Kansas for Planned Parenthood Great Plains (which McQuade headed until she moved East) said McQuade demonstrated the same behavior there. To call McQuade’s forced resignation a “departure” is euphemism on steroids. 

Foreshadowing what was to come about within a month, three  paragraphs into that open letter we read, “Planned Parenthood was founded by a racist, white woman.”

#2. Pro-lifers have written and documented Sanger’s love affair with eugenics. In a 2016 “Factsheet,” the national PPFA tried to have it both ways. As we discussed on Tuesday, they tried the Big Picture approach—Sanger was a child of her times when all the “best people” were eager to “improve the face”—and then  “acknowledge these major flaws in Sanger’s view—and we believe they are wrong.” 

What “major flaws”? According to the Times story, for “placing so-called illiterates, paupers, unemployables, criminals, prostitutes, and dope fiends on farms and in open spaces as long as necessary for the strengthening and development of moral conduct.” PPFA in 2016 “also condemned her support for policies to sterilize people who had disabilities that could not be treated” and “for banning immigrants with disabilities.”

However this misses the point. Pro-life scholars had long since conclusively outlined what the Factsheet gently concedes are “some beliefs, practices, and associations that we acknowledge and denounce, and that we work to rectify today.” To wit endorsing the 1927 Buck v. Bell decision, written by one of that era’s “best people” (Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.) in which the Supreme Court ruled that compulsory sterilization of the “unfit” was allowable under the Constitution.

#3. The New York Times’ Stewart somehow manages amidst all this turmoil not to mention Dr. Leana Wen, who was kicked to the curb after a tenure of just eight months as President of Planned Parenthood. The board ousted her on July 16, 2019, almost exactly a year before the decision by Planned Parenthood of New York to treat Margaret Sanger as a non-person. Dr. Wen was a Chinese-American.

#4. As you can see, the pace of the unveiling of PPFA scandals is picking up speed. It’s not being cynical to draw an obvious conclusion: today’s Planned Parenthood has its own brand of “major flaws” which are coming to the surface. And

#5.  As we discussed on Tuesday, the 2016 “Factsheet” begins with two pages of encomiums to the wonderfulness of Margaret Sanger. What I failed to mention is that it ended with pages of debunking of what it said were either statements falsely attributed to Sanger or misrepresentations (“Published Statements that Distort or Misquote Margaret Sanger”). So, even while acknowledging some “flaws,” the Factsheet began and ended with material intended to put Sanger in the best possible light.

So, too, does the conclusion of Stewart’s story  where a representative of (what I assume to be) Planned Parenthood of New York recounts “an often repeated but uncorroborated story” that all but confers sainthood on Sanger.

If you have a few minutes, please read pro-life champion Rep. Chris Smith remarks on Sanger. Rep. Smith’s eloquence is surpassed only by his passion.

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