When I lived in the majority Black inner city of Gary, IN I could walk to two Planned Parenthood clinics within the boundary of my neighborhood. There were two more that I knew of in the city at that time. A total of four Planned Parenthood (PP) clinics in a city of 74,000 people. It seemed a bit excessive…dare I say, racist.
Conservatives have long (and rightly) claimed that the legacy of abortion isn’t women’s “health,” but racism. The founder of the infamous clinic is Margaret Sanger, and her racist beliefs have been well-documented, particularly by the pro-life movement.
Still, the progressive left has long pooh-poohed the pro-life right’s claims that abortion – at least as formed by Planned Parenthood – is deeply rooted in the racist belief that America would be better off with fewer Black citizens. We have endured ridicule and accusations of hysteria and lying from our left-wing counterparts. We’ve been told we’ve misinterpreted her comments or taken them out of context. We’ve even heard some left-wing pundits try to claim Sanger wasn’t the actual founder of Planned Parenthood.
Still, we’ve always chosen to tell the truth about the vile underlying motivations of historical organizations like PP. Finally, the truth is being vindicated.
Last week the head of PP, Alexis McGill Johnson, wrote an op-ed finally admitting PP’s racist roots and declaring that she would no longer make excuses for them. Yes, that’s right…after decades of the progressive left gaslighting pro-lifers on the systemic racism of the abortion industry, they are finally admitting the truth. And the truth dropped with a soft thud, with the left largely ignoring this momentous admission.
We need to talk about Margaret Sanger.
For the 11 years that I’ve been involved with Planned Parenthood, founded by Sanger, her legacy on race has been debated. Sanger, a nurse, opened the nation’s first birth control clinic in Brownsville, Brooklyn, in 1916, and dedicated her life to promoting birth control to improve women’s lives. But was she, or was she not, racist?
It’s a question that we’ve tried to avoid, but we no longer can. We must reckon with it.
Up until now, Planned Parenthood has failed to own the impact of our founder’s actions. We have defended Sanger as a protector of bodily autonomy and self-determination, while excusing her association with white supremacist groups and eugenics as an unfortunate “product of her time.” Until recently, we have hidden behind the assertion that her beliefs were the norm for people of her class and era, always being sure to name her work alongside that of W.E.B. Dubois and other Black freedom fighters. But the facts are complicated.
Of course the facts are “complicated” when it comes to progressive racism. It’s funny how the facts are “complicated” when they indict the left. Johnson lists Sanger’s connection with the KKK and briefly explores her “distancing herself” from eugenics, before ultimately giving the softest rebuke. We can point to the ugliness of Sanger’s roots but naturally, we can’t determine what was in her heart.
We don’t know what was in Sanger’s heart, and we don’t need to in order to condemn her harmful choices. What we have is a history of focusing on white womanhood relentlessly. Whether our founder was a racist is not a simple yes or no question. Our reckoning is understanding her full legacy, and its impact. Our reckoning is the work that comes next.
The progressive left has been determining what is in the heart of anyone they disagree with for years now. It is hilariously tragic that when there is solid proof of a left-wing deity’s racism, suddenly it just isn’t right to say what is in a person’s heart.
Sanger remains an influential part of our history and will not be erased, but as we tell the history of Planned Parenthood’s founding, we must fully take responsibility for the harm that Sanger caused to generations of people with disabilities and Black, Latino, Asian-American, and Indigenous people.
Sanger thought birth control would liberate women, and in so many ways it has. According to a University of Michigan study, the availability of the birth control pill is responsible for roughly a third of women’s wage gains since the 1960s. Reassessing Sanger’s history doesn’t negate her feminist fight, but it does tarnish it. In the name of political expedience, she chose to engage white supremacists to further her cause. In doing that, she devalued and dehumanized people of color.
But whatever, we’ll take it. At least it’s proof of some progress in thought. Naturally, Johnson doesn’t suggest dismantling PP. No, never. She does suggest distancing (there’s that term again) from Sanger’s legacy. She blah-blah-blahs her way through more awkward posturing about racial justice and equity and how helping make sure there are fewer Black babies in America is actually social justice.
We get it, Ms. Johnson. We’ve heard it all before. You’ll get away with this toothless about-face because intellectual honesty cannot thrive on the left. The rest of us will be out here continuing to report on the pathetic legacy of Sanger’s organization. Maybe one day Johnson and her ilk will draw their thinking all the way out the logical conclusion and just close the clinics altogether. Frankly, if the MLB can boycott Georgia for a simple voter id law, maybe liberal organizations need to boycott PP for their real racism – a racism that has literally killed human beings.
But that would be too logical.