Margaret Sanger: Author of Birth Control and the Extermination of Black People and Other’s She Deemed “Undesirable”
The French have a word for it: débaptiser.
A prominent French scientist, Alexis Carrel (1878-1944) won the Nobel Prize for his inventions. His work saved military and civilian lives during both world wars. After his death, a grateful nation baptized the medical school of Lyons as Alexis-Carrel University. In the 1990s, however, critics recalled that Carrel had been an ardent eugenicist. In his book Man the Unknown (1935), Carrel recommended the use of gas chambers to deal with criminals and the insane. In the 1936 preface to the German edition, he praised the new National Socialist government’s eugenic policy of forced sterilization. The French government quickly debaptized Alexis-Carrel University and rebaptized it in the name of T. H. Laënnec, the uncontroversial inventor of the stethoscope.
In our own nation the work of debaptism continues apace as we confront our racist history. Calhoun Hall at Yale has been renamed. A senator and vice president, John Calhoun was an ardent defender of slavery and white supremacy. Georgetown recently removed the names of Thomas Mullady and William McSherry from campus buildings since both Jesuits had been prominent in the sale of slaves to distant Southern plantations in 1838.
Sanger argued for compulsory sterilization and segregation for people with disabilities.
As we purify our national memory, I would like to nominate my own candidate for debaptism: Sanger Square in Manhattan. Named after Margaret Sanger (1879-1966), the founder of the Birth Control League (the future Planned Parenthood), the square honors an improbable feminist icon who championed a coercive brand of eugenics.
Sanger’s eugenics creed is clearly stated in her speech “My Way to Peace” (1932). The centerpiece of the program is vigorous state use of compulsory sterilization and segregation. The first class of persons targeted for sterilization is made up of people with mental or physical disability. “The first step would be to control the intake and output on morons, mental defectives, epileptics.” A much larger class of undesirables would be forced to choose either sterilization or placement in state work camps. “The second step would be to take an inventory of the second group, such as illiterates, paupers, unemployables, criminals, prostitutes, dope-fiends; classify them in special departments under government medical protection and segregate them on farms and open spaces.” Those segregated in these camps could return to mainstream society if they underwent sterilization and demonstrated good behavior. Sanger estimates that 15 million to 20 million Americans would be targeted in this regime of forced sterilization and concentration camps. In Sanger, the humanitarian dream of a world without poverty and illness has deteriorated into a coercive world where the poor, the disabled and the addicted simply disappear.
Sanger represents a genteel prejudice shared by many members of America’s ruling class in the early 20th century.
Sanger’s eugenics project carried its own racial preoccupation. In a letter of Dec. 10, 1939, to Clarence Gamble (cited here), she explains the nature of her organization’s outreach to the African-American community: “The most successful educational approach to the Negro 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 ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.” In her autobiography she proudly recounts her address to the women of the Ku Klux Klan in Silver Lake, N.J., in 1926.
Dethroning a cultural idol like Sanger is not easy. The problem goes deeper than the link between her birth control movement and the sexual revolution. Sanger represents a genteel prejudice shared by many members of America’s ruling class in the early 20th century. To face squarely the glacial eugenics of Sanger one must demythologize the Progressive movement’s pantheon: Theodore Roosevelt (who staunchly supported the eugenic research of the Cold Spring Harbor laboratories), Woodrow Wilson (who as governor of New Jersey signed a law in 1911 mandating the forced sterilization of “the feeble-minded”), and Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes (who in the Buck v. Bell case in 1927 declared forced-sterilization statutes constitutional). Such biases have consequences. At least 60,000 American citizens were sterilized against their will under the weight of such mandates.
When we improbably debaptize Sanger Square, I propose a new baptismal name: that of Carrie Buck (1878-1966), the Virginia woman whose fate as a sterilization victim was sealed by the 1927 court decision. The state of Virginia had condemned Buck as feeble-minded, as incorrigible and as sexually promiscuous. She was in fact a C pupil, only mildly disruptive in class, and the child she bore out of wedlock was the result of being raped by the nephew of her foster parents.
For all our current efforts to face the destructive biases in our history, we find it difficult to admit, let alone condemn, our longstanding hostility toward people with disabilities and to confront those elites who have fostered that contempt. Our cult of Margaret Sanger is a sign of that enduring refusal.
Margaret Sanger, “My Way to Peace,” Jan. 17 1932 .
Typed speech. Source: MSMMargaret Sanger Papers, Library of Congress 130:198 .
Sanger delivered this speech to the New History Society, part of a series on “My Plan for Peace.” For other versions, including one published in the Birth Control Review, see MSM S71:336, 338, 341, 345, and 348.
MY WAY TO PEACE
URL of the original posting site: https://www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger/webedition/app/documents/show.php?sangerDoc=129037.xml
Science has been applied to the various channels of life’s needs especially to our environment. Industry, commerce, education, hygiene, surgery, agriculture, dairy, factory, mining and even war have had the benefits of the best that science could command; but it has not yet been applied to improving the quality of life itself nor to the maintenance of PEACE.
MY WAY TO PEACE would be First, to put into action the fourteen points of President Wilson’s, upon which Germany and Austria surrendered to the Allies. Second, to have Congress set up a special department for the study of population problems, and appoint a Parliament of Population Directors representing the various branches of science.
This body to direct and control the population through Birth rates and immigration, and direct its distribution over the country according to national needs consistent with the taste, fitness and interest of the individuals.
The main objects of the Population Congress would be:
(a) to raise the level and increase the general intelligence of our population.
(b) to increase the population slowly by keeping the birth rate at its present level of fifteen, decreasing the death rate below its present mark of 11.
(c) keep the doors of Immigration closed to the entrance of certain aliens whose condition is known to be detrimental to the stamina of the race, such as feeble-minded, idiots, morons, insane, syphiletic, epileptic, criminal, professional prostitutes, and others in this class barred from entrance by the Immigration Laws of 1924.
(d) apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization, and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is already tainted or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring.
(e) to insure the country against future burdens of maintenance for numerous offspring as may be born of feeble-minded parents, the government would pension all persons with transmissible disease who voluntarily consent to sterilization.
(f) the whole dysgenic population would have its choice of segregation or sterilization.
(g) there would be farm lands and homesteads where these segregated persons would be taught to work under competent instructors for the period of their entire lives.
The first step would thus be to control the intake and output on morons, mental defectives, epileptics.
The second step would be to take an inventory of the secondary group such as illiterates, paupers, unemployables, criminals, prostitutes, dope-fiends; classify them in special departments under government medical protection and segregate on farms and open spaces as long as necessary for the strengthening and development of moral conduct.
Having coralled this enormous part of our population and placed it on a basis of health not punishment, it is safe to say that about fifteen or twenty millions of our population would then be organized into soldiers of defense–defending the unborn against their own disabilities.
The third step would be to give special attention to the mothers’ health, to see that women who are suffering from tuberculosis, heart or kidney disease, toxis goitre, gonorrhea, or any disease where the condition of pregnancy disturbs her health; place these mothers under public health nurses to instruct them in practical scientific methods of contraception in order to safeguard their lives–thus reducing maternal mortality.
There would be a careful follow-up in the homes where infants have died, to ascertain the causes and to prevent when possible the further increase of children until the causes have been removed–reducing infant mortality.
While the above steps seem to be emphasis on a health program instead of on tariffs, moratoriums and debts, I believe that national health is the first essential factor in any program for universal peace.
With the future citizens safeguarded from hereditary taints, with five million mental and moral degenerates segregated, with ten million women and ten million children receiving adequate attention, we could then turn our attention to the basic needs for international peace.
There would then be a definite inexorable ruling that the population should increase slowly at a specified rate, in order to accommodate and adjust the increasing numbers to our social and economic system.
The Birth Rate in the United States in 1931 was 15.0 and the death rate about 11, which allowed for a survival rate of 4%, or an increase in the population, including immigration, of over 20%.
Immigration: Open the gates of the U.S.A. to those countries whose inhabitants have the inherent talents and national characteristics desirable, eliminating entirely those countries whose subjects have already been difficult to assimilate.
This plan to be in operation for ten years. In the meantime we shall organize and join an International League of Low Birth Rate Nations to secure and maintain WORLD PEACE.
- “unfit” to reproduce, descriptions of
- fertility limitation, of physicaly disabled and diseased
- sterilization, candidates for
Copyright 2003. Margaret Sanger Project
I have been able to identify 2 people from the Democratic Party and one intuition that I believe represent the new Margaret Sangers. In case some of my readers do not know who Margaret Sanger was, let me give you a brief history. Born in 1879 this is what she believed and taught: “Margaret Sanger spoke of sterilizing those she designated as “unfit,” a plan she said would be the “salvation of American civilization.”
She also spoke of those who were “irresponsible and reckless,” among whom she included those “whose religious scruples prevent their exercising control over their numbers.” She further contended, “There is no doubt in the minds of all thinking people that the procreation of this group should be stopped.” That many Americans of African origin constituted a segment of whom Sanger considered “unfit” cannot be easily refuted.
How successful were Margaret’s efforts? After her death in 1966, her efforts led to the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision on legal abortion. How has it met her goals? For example, 36.0% of all abortions in the U.S. in 2014 were performed on Black women. However, only about 13.3% of the total population is Black.
While Black women make up only about 14% of Michigan’s female population, they had 50.6% of all abortions reported in the state in 2017.
How successful have the Sangers of the world been in reducing the number of African-Americans? They are no longer the nation’s largest minority group. Today, Hispanics have outpaced Blacks in population growth.
Who are the new Sangers? The first is Virginia Democratic delegate, Kathy Tran. She introduced a bill that would allow an abortion to take place while the baby is in the birth canal. Of note is that the Virginia Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, supported the bill. “Tran kicked up a firestorm last week in answering yes when asked if her bill would allow a woman in labor and about to deliver to have an abortion.” She later took back the answer, saying that an abortion to interrupt a live birth would be infanticide and illegal. The Republicans in the Virginia house defeated her bill, but another state saw this differently.
The second Margaret Sanger is State Sen. Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, who with others was the Abortion bill’s sponsor in the New York State Senate. In 2013 17,712,000 people were living in New York, with blacks accounting for 3.5 million or 19.7% of the state’s population.
The number of abortions performed on all races in New York was 98,104 in 2013. Black abortions accounted for 34,960, or almost 36% of all abortions. The question is would Margaret be pleased with these results?
Now let’s turn to the institutional Margaret Sanger, the Democratic Party. The New York Democratic Party leadership celebrated the passage of the bill, extending the time for an abortion to literally the beginning of delivery. They were so proud of what they accomplished that Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo called this bloody, legal monstrosity “a historic victory for New Yorkers and for our progressive values.” He then ordered One World Trade Center—A.K.A., the “Freedom Tower” –and other New York landmarks to be lit up pink. This “achievement,” he said, will “shine a bright light forward for the rest of the nation to follow.” Yes, America will kill its babies after they are born.
Let me be clear: what the New York Democrats were celebrating was the legality of a fully-formed, eight-pound baby girl, with a head of hair, fingernails, eyelashes, and a 100 percent chance of surviving outside the womb, to be poisoned, crushed and killed.
The pushback from both events caught the national Democrats off guard, and they had to do something to change the story and distract people from talking about this horrific thing that they had done. Even so, the Democrats have fought for 43 years for abortion at any time, including the moment of birth.
As I stated above, the governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, supported the bill and said during an interview with WTOP that, “he supported the motion and seemed to push the envelope a little further by suggesting that a mother could make the decision to abort the child after it was birthed, as it lay on a birthing table.”
The Democrats were shocked at the public outcry of Infanticide. The news was getting more and more negative and they desperately needed to change the message. This unexpected change came from 1984 pictures of blackface and the KKK on Governor Northam’s medical school yearbook page. The panic can be heard in the voice of Erin Burnett when she desperately tries to change the subject from infanticide back to the KKK and Governor Northam. The truth is that the killing of a child in the first 24 hours of birth is properly called Neonaticide.
Here the Democrats saw a way to sacrifice one of their own, Governor Northam, and get a black governor, present Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, to make up for the two they lost in the midterms and change the agenda away from infanticide.
I said last Friday on one of my radio appearances that this issue, I believe, will have legs that will take us to the 2020 elections. All of the candidates for the Democratic nomination who called for the ouster of Northam are in trouble. Identifying the Democratic Party with infanticide by Republicans will cost them dearly.
Margaret Sanger, rest well, your friends, the Democratic Party, are fulfilling your dreams.
Dan Perkins is an author, radio and TV talk show host, current events commentator, and philanthropist. His books are available on Amazon.com. More information about him, his writings, and other works are on his website: danperkins.guru.