A recently unearthed pamphlet reveals the racist agenda that has been at the core of Planned Parenthood from the beginning. Live Action exposed the marketing materials authored by Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger. The pamphlet is from Sanger’s time as the head of the Birth Control Federation of America, the precursor of Planned Parenthood.
The pamphlet does not advocate abortion, which would come later when Planned Parenthood grew to be the largest abortion business in the nation. Instead, the flyer presents eugenic arguments for birth control, arguing for reducing the population of Black people in the United States. A note from Sanger and Richard N. Pierson at the beginning of the flyer claims that for half of the United States’ children “tomorrow means hardship, poverty, ill-health or death.”
The introduction continues, “Born to families who can give them little in health, or security, or happiness, these children are destined to carry on the conditions under which they were born.” According to the authors, who are strongly in favor of eugenics, “Nowhere among our people is this more true than among the Negroes in the United States.”
The pamphlet goes on to outline a program of birth control aimed at Black Americans which promised to improve maternal mortality rates, decrease infant deaths, improve health for mothers and children, and ensure “a better world tomorrow.” The program is overtly aimed at reducing the population of Black Americans, calling for the targeted promotion of birth control to Black mothers. Just like the modern abortion industry, the eugenic birth control program Sanger promoted claims to be for the good of the mothers.
The pamphlet lays out a vision of the “unplanned families” which have only the “poorest homes.” The pamphlet claims that birth control, in contrast to unplanned families, offers the “children of tomorrow.” As Live Action notes, “The pamphlet implies that not using birth control makes a child’s life unhappy and abnormal.” Whereas, babies born into “planned” families have a “fair chance for happiness and a normal life.”
Sanger and her allies were international leaders in the eugenics movement. In a 1923 New York Times interview Sanger proposed birth control as a tool to suppress and eliminate those she considered “human weeds,” that is people who were deemed unfit in her racist, eugenic worldview. This alarming view is further demonstrated in another pamphlet of Sanger’s which makes racist claims about Blacks “crowded in city slums,” and implies that they should not be allowed to have many children.
Infamously, Sanger even promoted her eugenic views by speaking at meetings of the women’s branch of the Ku Klux Klan. However, often her racism was not overt. As in this pamphlet, which is aimed at getting leaders in the Black community to push birth control, Sanger viewed the more effective means of achieving her goal of reducing the Black population as convincing Black leaders to promote the practice themselves. Sanger said:
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. We would hire three or four black ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds and engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to their population is through a religious appeal. We don’t want the word to get out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it should occur to their more rebellious members.
Sanger’s racism and the racist foundation of Planned Parenthood is often minimized or completely ignored. Yet, pamphlets like the one recently unearthed demonstrate how endemic this unjust and perverse view of minorities was to the founding and mission of Planned Parenthood. Understanding the eugenics that animated racism in Sanger and her ilk goes a long way to explaining the prevalence of Planned Parenthood abortion mills in minority communities. As Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas explained, there is a direct link between eugenics and the modern abortion industry. As in Sanger’s early years advocating for eugenics, the modern abortion industry operates by convincing people that destroying themselves is the path forward. This was not true one hundred years ago, and the truth remains on the side of Life.