Cancel culture has become notorious for attacking people who deviate from progressive ideology. Oftentimes the left eats its own, even when the transgression was inadvertent or years ago. That was the case this week when cancel culture came for Margaret Sanger.
Sanger was a birth control advocate and founder of Planned Parenthood, but, as pro-life critics of her work have pointed out for years, Sanger was also an advocate of eugenics. It is her work regarding eugenics that has finally been noticed by the left and led to her cancellation.
The eugenics movement was a popular pseudoscientific philosophy in the late 1800s and early 1900s popularized by Frank Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin. The core of the movement included selective breeding of humans and culling the herd of undesirables. Advocates pushed for more reproduction from people with favorable genetic traits while attempting to limit procreation by people who were considered undesirable. Undesirable categories included the mentally ill, immigrants, minorities, and the poor.
The theory of eugenics was put into practice. In the United States, the Supreme Court upheld forced sterilizations with Oliver Wendell Holmes writing “three generations of imbeciles are enough.” British and American ideas on eugenics also spread to Germany where they became a cornerstone of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi policies.
Sanger believed that eugenics and birth control when hand in hand, writing in 1919, “Eugenics without birth control seems to us a house builded upon the sands. It is at the mercy of the rising stream of the unfit.”
Much of Sanger’s eugenics ideology was also directed against black Americans, who she worried in a 1939 letter, might get the idea “that we want to exterminate the Negro population.” That doesn’t seem to have been Sanger’s goal but her aims were nearly as disturbing. She advocated requiring permits to allow prospective parents to have babies and not allowing parents to have more children if other offspring have health problems. She even acknowledged advancing her ideas in a speech to the Ku Klux Klan.
Nevertheless, it is Sanger’s racism that has inspired New York’s Planned Parenthood chapter to change the name of Margaret Sanger Square at the intersection of Bleecker and Mott streets in Manhattan. The Washington Post reports that that change comes a month after the chapter’s white chief executive was ousted amid allegations of “systemic racism, pay inequity and a lack of upward mobility for black employees.”
In a statement, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America said, “Planned Parenthood, like many other organizations that have existed for a century or more, is reckoning with our history, and working to address historical inequities to better serve patients and our mission.”
Ironically, while Sanger and other early eugenicists have fallen out of favor, eugenics itself is alive and well. Modern bigots still look down on other races and ethnicities and worry that demographics will affect the future of politics. Modern abortion is increasingly conceived of as a tool to eliminate babies who suffer from mental or physical defects, such as Down’s syndrome.
Margaret Sanger would approve.
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