Planned Parenthood To Remove Margaret Sanger’s Name From N.Y. Clinic Over Eugenics SupportHistorians in the News
tags: eugenics, Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, reproductive rights
Planned Parenthood of Greater New York will remove the name of the national organization’s founder, Margaret Sanger, from a Manhattan clinic in an attempt to reckon with her ties to the eugenics movement, the organization announced Tuesday.
The announcement marks a dramatic shift in the organization’s relationship with its founder, even as it has long acknowledged that Sanger’s views were problematic. In 2016, Planned Parenthood’s 100th anniversary, the organization published a lengthy fact sheet about Sanger, outlining her views on eugenics and describing her as “layered and complex” while defending her contributions.
Like many of her contemporaries at the time, Sanger supported the belief that it was possible to biologically create a better human race, said Esther Katz, a retired associate history professor at New York University and founder of the Margaret Sanger Papers Project. “But by better, she meant healthier, not morally better,” Katz said.
Sanger supported the sterilization of some people with mental illnesses, Katz said. She also believed that if a woman gave birth to too many children, the children would become weaker as the number of children grew. And in order to advance the birth control movement, she spoke with the Ku Klux Klan. But her views and actions have also often been taken out of context to claim Sanger wanted to “erase the black race,” Katz said.
Planned Parenthood and its founder have often become inaccurately intertwined in conversations about sterilization abuse that ocurred in hospitals in the 1960s and later, abuse that disproportionately affected black and indigenous women, said Ayah Nuriddin, a PhD candidate in the department of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University who is writing her thesis on eugenics and the African American community. Nuriddin said it’s important to distinguish between the Sanger’s work and views and the later forms of state-sponsored sterilization.
“She’s racist, she’s eugenicist,” Nuriddin said. “That does not make her unique among her contemporaries in this period. I think there’s sometimes this notion that she’s somehow suplerlative in her racism, and that’s simply not the case.”
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