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'They Have to Reinvent Her': Margaret Sanger's Fans Work to Clean Up Her Racist Past

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As the founder of the American Birth Control League which later became Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger was no doubt a controversial figure with disturbing views on eugenics, race, and population control. 

Some argue she wanted to exterminate the black race, while others are trying to erase that part of her past.

"In the eyes of some, Margaret Sanger has been a heroine," news anchor Mike Wallace said in a 1969 interview with Sanger. "In the eyes of others, she's been a destructive force."

In her own words, Sanger strived for a society that limited births to those she deemed fit to have children.

"I think the greatest sin in the world is bringing children into the world that have disease from their parents, that have no chance in the world to be a human being practical; delinquents, prisoners, all sorts of things, just marked when they're born," Sanger told Wallace.

In 1916 Sanger opened the country's first birth-control clinic. And as a member of the American Eugenics Society, she advocated improving the 'genetic composition of humans through controlled reproduction of different races and classes.'

She often wrote about the issue in the journal she founded called The Birth Control Review.

Margaret Sanger's Beliefs About Race and Eugenics Exposed

In 1919 in an article called "Birth Control and Racial Betterment," she wrote, "I personally believe in the sterilization of the feeble-minded, the insane, and the syphilitic."

And in 1921 in a piece called, "The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda," she said, "The most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective." 

Many point to a 1923 New York Times interview as proof of Sanger's racist and eugenic motives, in which she referred to some groups of people as "human weeds."

"Birth Control is not contraception indiscriminately and thoughtlessly practiced," she said in the article. "It means the release and cultivation of the better racial elements in our society, and the gradual suppression, elimination, and eventual extirpation [destruction] of defective stocks - those human weeds which threaten the blooming of the finest flowers of American civilization."

Hayden Ludwig, an investigative researcher for the Capital Research Center, has extensively studied Sanger's life and writings.

"She talked about the need for race betterment through controlling these weeds, basically undesirable people," Ludwig told CBN News.

Singing Sanger's Praise While Ignoring Her History

In 1939, after opening another clinic in Harlem, the birth control activist launched the Negro Project, an initiative supported by black leaders such as civil rights activist W.E.B Dubois. 

Critics claim the program used the pretense of better health and family planning for poor blacks in the South as an attempt to limit the black race. 

Ludwig says some on the left grapple with Sanger's past and how to interpret her legacy.

"They know when she writes about weeds, they know it's repulsive," explained Ludwig. "They know it's disgusting. "The left will never abandon Margaret Sanger because she's the foundation of so many of their views," he continued.

Sanger once shared her vision for a preferred race at a women's branch of the Ku Klux Klan, writing in page 366 of her autobiography, "Always, to me, any aroused group was a good group."

Despite those views, liberals praise Sanger's work while ignoring her history.

Hillary Clinton: "I Am Really in Awe of Her"

In 2009, Hillary Clinton received Planned Parenthood's Margaret Sanger award. During an acceptance speech, she praised the group's founder. 

"I admire Margaret Sanger enormously, her courage, her tenacity, her vision," said Clinton. "I am really in awe of her," she continued.

Ryan Bomberger, the founder of the pro-life group Radiance Foundation, says abortion proponents are working to clean up Sanger's past and what she stood for.

"They have to reinvent her every time they talk about her in order to justify their celebration of her," explained Bomberger.

Abortion Industry Insiders "Trained" to Overlook Sanger's Racist Views

Former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson said those inside the abortion industry are trained to overlook Sanger's racist views.

"They gave you an answer like, 'Well, I mean yes Margaret Sanger was a racist but everybody was a racist back then.' "You accept it because she is your hero and she has to be your hero and you cannot question Planned Parenthood," said Johnson.

In 1997 Steven Mosher of the Population Research Institute wrote about the push to repackage Margaret Sanger in an article in the Wall Street Journal.

"The reason I call it the repackaging of Margaret Sanger is because after the Nazi regime destroyed the legitimacy of eugenics forever, they then went back and said, 'Oh she was just an early feminist. She was just an early supporter of family planning,'" said Mosher. 

He went on to say, "No, she wasn't. No, she was a supporter of giving IQ tests to people. She was in favor of using those IQ tests to determine who should be sterilized and who should have children."

In a response, titled "The Demonization of Margaret Sanger," Alexander Sanger, her grandson and president of Planned Parenthood at the time, called Mosher's editorial unfair. In the same piece, Esther Katz, director of NYU's Margaret Sanger Papers Project, claimed evidence revealing, "...Sanger did not rationalize her support for birth control on racist grounds, that she never advocated genocidal policies aimed at racial, ethnic or religious groups, and that she, in fact, believed access to birth control would benefit, not eliminate minority populations."

Dr. Katz turned down our request for an interview, writing, "Our goal has always been to offer complete, accurate, and accessible access to the full body of her writings… I believe her words and deeds, accurately represented, speak for themselves."

In 1942, Margaret Sanger's American Birth Control League became Planned Parenthood, which has moved to fulfill its founder's goals, helped greatly by the US Supreme Court decision in Roe versus Wade.

"Under the veil of deceit and deception, 60 plus million babies have not been born because they were aborted legally since '73," said Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "One-third of that population belonged to the African American community."

It is a frightening and telling number given that blacks make up only 13 percent of the US population.

Dan Gainor of the Media Research Center says that Sanger's true mission remains alive and well throughout today's abortion industry.

"Just look at the maps, see where the abortion facilities are, they are near places where people are marginalized, people are poor, people are a minority and that's their target market," said Gainor.

Because of allies in the media and academia, Gainor also points out how speech from conservatives and others about Sanger's past, Planned Parenthood practices, and abortion is often classified as hate speech.

He said, "There is nothing as close to a sacrament in the media as abortion. It is a holy writ that abortion is protected. And anybody who comes out against it, any organization, any business, anybody, the media swarm."

And so does social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. 

"Facebook's new oversight board and this is really concerning, has four co-chairs," explained Gainor. "They're going to be the appeals board for content. One of the four oversight boards is on the board of a pro-abortion group. There are no pro-lifers." 

Conservatives say it's also a problem that exists on college campuses across the country.

"I remember at Harvard, they laughed when I was talking about the history of eugenics and they said that doesn't matter," said Bomberger. "Planned Parenthood is not like it was in Margaret Sanger days."

Those who oppose her views say that is not true and are committed to exposing her past for future generations.

"Unfortunately, they've been very effective in recasting who Margaret Sanger is. But we keep on speaking the truth. That's why we're a thorn in their side," said Bomberger.

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About The Author

Charlene Aaron

Charlene Aaron serves as a general assignment reporter, news anchor, co-host of The 700 Club, co-host of 700 Club Interactive, and co-host of The Prayerlink on the CBN News Channel. She covers various social issues, such as abortion, gender identity, race relations, and more. Before joining CBN News in 2003, she was a personal letter writer for Dr. Pat Robertson. Charlene attended Old Dominion University and Elizabeth City State University. She is an ordained minister and pastor’s wife. She lives in Smithfield, VA, with her husband.