Founder Margaret Sanger’s Racism Is the Tip of the Iceberg of What Planned Parenthood Should Apologize for

Note from Randy: I’ve written before, in books and articles, about my research into the racism and eugenic beliefs of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. So I read with interest a recent opinion piece by Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood’s current president and chief executive, which says, “We must reckon with Margaret Sanger’s association with white supremacist groups and eugenics.”

In some ways I admire their admission, hard as it is to admire anything related to Planned Parenthood!  I think the backlash has been great enough that they finally, perhaps out of a combination of desperation and sincerity, decided to boldly proclaim Sanger’s guilt—though they needed an editor to delete a few lines such as, “Whether our founder was a racist is not a simple yes or no question.” Actually, yes, it is a very simple question. The clear answer is yes, which is what Ms. McGill Johnson appears to admit but sometimes still backtracks on.

In this article, Joe Carter explains four more reasons why PP should apologize. May we never become complacent in advocating for unborn children and their mothers, and exposing the darkness of Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics across the country. (Thanks, Joe, for letting us use this as a guest blog!)

4 More Reasons Planned Parenthood Should Apologize

By Joe Carter

Eight years ago, when Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPA) held its annual gala, the motto for the event was “Our past is our prologue.” Part of the past the organization chose to celebrate at the time was its founder, the notorious racist and eugenicist Margaret Sanger.

Sanger wanted to control the reproduction of immigrants, the poor, certain religious groups, and anyone else she thought was from an unacceptable heritage. Sanger referred to such people as reckless breeders who were “unceasingly spawning a class of human beings who never should have been born at all.”

In 1939 Sanger started the “Negro Project” and attempted to persuade Christian ministers to help her effort. As she wrote in a letter to a fellow eugenicist, “we do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.” (In fairness, as her defenders often point out, Sanger wasn’t against all black people. She mainly just didn’t want poor black people to be born.)

But a lot has changed in the past decade, and Sanger has moved from celebrated icon to an indefensible relic of an even more unenlightened age. In an op-ed published April 17 in The New York Times, PPA president and chief executive Alexis McGill Johnson admitted the organization “must reckon with Margaret Sanger’s association with white supremacist groups and eugenics.”

“Sanger remains an influential part of our history and will not be erased,” Johnson says, “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.”

“Reassessing Sanger’s history doesn’t negate her feminist fight, but it does tarnish it,” Johnson adds. “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.”

It would be easy to dismiss PPA’s change of heart as its latest placation to political expedience. After all, PPA has a history of going along with whatever progressive platitude happens to be trending. (A prime example is its tweet in 2018 that “Some men have a uterus.” Presumably, PP wasn’t referring to male pseudohermaphrodites but to biological men who merely identify as women.) This latest apology, however, appears to be somewhat sincere. Rather than completely spurn the gesture as inauthentic, we should instead encourage PPA to apologize for its other, even more heinous, offenses.

While there are dozens of issues and crimes that PPA should apologize for, here are four of the most significant.

1. PPA endorses infanticide.

In 2013, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of Florida testified against that state’s Born Alive Infants Protection Act and told lawmakers that if a baby survives an abortion, the decision about whether the child should live should be “between the [mother] and the health care provider.”

PPA also opposed the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act when it was proposed in Congress in 2020. Its rationale was that such a law isn’t needed because Congress had already passed the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act in 2002—a law that PPA opposed at the time. Indeed, when Congress opposed infanticide in 2002, PPA actively worked to prohibit a similar anti-infanticide law in the Illinois legislature.

2. PPA fails to report criminal sexual abuse of minors and women.

Adult men having sex with minors is often referred to as statutory rape, a form of criminal sexual abuse since minors are, by legal definition, unable to consent. Yet PPA has always made it clear that it does not support such laws. For example, in a paper on “Reducing Teenage Pregnancy” it says:

Some states are enacting or more rigorously enforcing statutory rape laws to curb teenage pregnancy among women with older partners by deterring adult men from becoming sexually involved with minors. However, experts assert that statutory rape laws do not reduce rates of teenage pregnancy, but do discourage teens from obtaining reproductive health care out of fear that disclosing information about their partner will lead to a criminal charge.

All 50 states have some form of law requiring that such abuse be reported, and the federal government requires that facilities receiving Title X assistance (like PP clinics) comply with such laws. But PPA seems to believe it is exempt from such moral and legal obligations.

For example, in 2008 Live Action conducted an undercover investigation in which Lila Rose and Jackie Stollar posed as girls as young as 13, with “boyfriends” as old as 31. They found eight PP facilities in six states were willing to cover up sexual abuse and disregard mandatory reporting laws of suspected statutory rape.

Similar investigations before and after Live Action’s sting operation have also shown PP clinics demonstrating a willingness to work with pimps and sex traffickers to exploit young women instead of safeguarding their health and safety.

3. PPA sells body parts—from humans it has killed.

In 2015, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released a video that showed a national-level executive of PP admitting it sells intact fetal body parts. That video, and others released by CMP, garnered a surprising level of media attention, sparked congressional hearings, and launched dozens of investigations into the abortion behemoth. Some pro-life Americans even believed it was a fatal blow to the abortion industry. But it was not.

After nearly a dozen state investigations in the course of two years, no solid and substantial proof was shown that PP violated the law in regard to the collection of fetal tissue donations. The main reason the corporation was not punished was that PP had not done anything illegal. And the reason selling fetal body parts was not illegal is that PP helped write the laws that allowed the bodies of aborted children to be sold.

4. PPA kills our children.

Since 1973, there have been an estimated 60 million legal abortions in the United States. Planned Parenthood is responsible for more than 1 in 3 (37 percent) of the nearly 900,000 abortions that occur each year in the United States. Assuming the organization has achieved the same market share since Roe v. Wade, we can estimate that PP has been responsible for the deaths of around 22.2 million human beings.

For any corporation to be responsible for more deaths than the entire population of Florida is rather astounding. But PP manages to still receive taxpayer funding for its gruesome enterprise. In 2020, PP brought in more than $618 million from government sources, accounting for almost 40 percent of its total revenues.

The reason PP can get away with supporting infanticide and the selling of fetal tissue, while killing our children and protecting sexual predators—all while receiving taxpayer money—is a combination of political support and public apathy. In its platform, the Democratic Party explicitly lists providing “federal funding for Planned Parenthood” as one of its main priorities.

The Republican Party platform officially opposes government funding of PP, but once elected, Republican politicians do not do much to defund the abortion provider. (In 2018, after two years of controlling the House, Senate, and White House and still doing nothing to defund PP, the party gave up the pretense that it was a priority.)

But why should politicians care? The number of Christians who refuse to vote for either party because of this issue is vanishingly small. Perhaps instead of asking Planned Parenthood to apologize for these four issues, we Christians in America should apologize for giving an apathetic shrug about these crimes.

This article originally appeared on The Gospel Coalition and is used with permission.

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If we have any hope of understanding and engaging with each other, let’s move our dialogue beyond bumper stickers, memes, and tweets. Randy encourages readers to listen carefully to arguments on both sides of the abortion debate, and to look at the evidence and weigh it on its own merit.

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Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition, author of The Life and Faith Field Guide for Parents, the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible, and coauthor of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator. He also serves as an associate pastor at McLean Bible Church in Arlington, Virginia.