Planned Parenthood’s president has admitted that Margaret Sanger, founder of the nation’s leading abortion provider, was a white supremacist who supported eugenics and forced sterilizations.
Alexis McGill Johnson, the African American president and chief executive of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, attempted to reckon with Sanger’s racism and harming of women of color in an op-ed for The New York Times.
Although Planned Parenthood has been trying to distance itself from its founder:
“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,” Johnson writes in the April 17 op-ed.
As Johnson points out, Sanger befriended the Klu Klux Klan to earn their support for her birth control movement. She also “endorsed the Supreme Court’s 1927 decision in Buck v. Bell, which allowed states to sterilize people deemed ‘unfit’ without their consent and sometimes without their knowledge — a ruling that led to the sterilization of tens of thousands of people in the 20th century.”
Johnson also acknowledged that early trials of the birth control pill were conducted on about 1,500 women in Puerto Rico. Sanger supported the experiments, which potentially exposed the women to “dangerous side effects.”
To atone for its founder’s sins and for how Planned Parenthood has “contributed to America harming Black women and other women of color,” Johnson says the organization will continue to confront white supremacy within the organization and elsewhere.
“We pledge to fight the many types of dehumanization,” she writes, including the “dehumanization of transgender people.”
Johnson, who has said she is a Christian, has failed to adequately reckon with Sanger’s past and her organization’s history, according to members of the Human Coalition. The Christian nonprofit’s mandate is to “remove the stain of abortion from America.”
“Planned Parenthood has contributed to the harm of women of color for decades, and Alexis McGill Johnson’s so-called ‘reckoning’ does nothing to change that truth,” Dr. Deborah Honeycutt, board chair of the nonprofit, said in a press release.
“They have failed to confront the white supremacy within its organization, as they continue to aggressively prey on Black and brown communities with abortion. Destroying human life contributes to a culture of death and injustice, and Planned Parenthood will always be known for killing a generation of minorities, just as Margaret Sanger dreamed that it would,” she added.
Benjamin Watson, retired NFL player and vice president of the Human Coalition, also took Johnson to task.
“Acknowledging a racist history does not absolve them of the blood on their hands, as they continue to take full advantage of victims of the racism they decry,” Watson said.
Reported figures have long shown that Black and Hispanic women get abortions at rates higher than that of White women—although latest figures by the CDC may suggest a shift in those disparities.
Some pro-life advocates insist Planned Parenthood intentionally targets Black women with abortion as part of its reproductive health services.
Ironically, Sanger did not view abortion favorably—describing it in her early writings as “a disgrace to civilization.” Planned Parenthood reportedly took on a more pro-abortion stance under Sanger’s successor, and more aggressively so after her death in 1966.
However, Sanger’s support for eugenics is undeniable, as documented in her 1932 op-ed titled “The Pope’s Position on Abortion.” In that article, Sanger suggests that God doesn’t want the world overpopulated “with [increasing numbers of] feeble-minded, insane, criminal, and diseased worshipers.”
The Planned Parenthood founder also aimed her advocacy for family planning via contraception at Black communities when she launched the Negro Project in 1939. The program was “[i]nfluenced strongly by both the eugenics movement and the progressive welfare programs of the New Deal era,” according to the Margaret Sanger Papers.
However, “the Negro Project was, from the start, largely indifferent to the needs of the [B]lack community and constructed in terms and with perceptions that today smack of racism.”