While Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger is sometimes hailed as a champion of women’s rights, she was no savior to minorities and those with disabilities, said speakers at a recent rally in Washington, D.C.
“Saviors come to give life, not to take it away,” said pro-life activist Ryan Bomberger at an Aug. 27 rally to remove Sanger’s bust from the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.
Bomberger was adopted after his mother, a victim of rape, chose to carry him to term. Last week, he was part of a group of black pastors and other pro-life advocates pushing for the removal of Sanger’s bust from the National Portrait Gallery’s “Struggle for Justice” exhibit.
Some of that group – a coalition of black ministers – had sent a letter to the gallery’s director on Aug. 7 asking her to remove the bust. They said that Sanger was a supporter of black eugenics and that her organization, Planned Parenthood, has 70 percent of its abortion clinics in minority communities.
The group has collected 14,000 signatures asking the gallery to take down the bust.
Sanger was a prominent advocate of birth control and abortion for women, especially minority women and those in poverty.
However, the answer to poverty is life and not death, Bomberger insisted, saying that his biological mother proved Sanger wrong. Herself a victim of rape, his mother “had the courage to go through nine months of a traumatic pregnancy.”
“Margaret Sanger grew up in brokenness. And we have choices as human beings as to whether we’re going to allow that brokenness to dictate further brokenness, or let that brokenness be transformed into something that is life-affirming,” he told CNA.
“My [adoptive] mother grew up in poverty. She had an alcoholic father, just like Margaret Sanger,” he continued. “And she took that, and embraced the possibility of those of us who were supposedly unwanted, adopting 10 children.”
Sanger opened her first Planned Parenthood clinic in New York City, and it is here where her legacy of “inhumanity” is playing out, Bomberger said. Since 2012, there have been more black babies aborted in the city than born. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control last year found that 78 percent of babies aborted in New York City were black or Hispanic.
Sanger’s advocacy of eugenics is an “incredibly personal” affront to disability activist Melissa Ortiz, founder of the group Able Americans, who joined the speakers in condemning Sanger’s legacy.
Sanger had proposed a “population congress” in her 1932 essay “My Way to Peace,” which would allow for the sterilization of those “whose progeny is already tainted” or who might transfer “objectionable traits” to their children. “The whole dysgenic population would have its choice of segregation or sterilization,” Sanger proposed.
“Margaret Sanger said that I, as a woman with a disability, was not fit to be a parent,” said Ortiz, who was born with a structural brain and spinal cord defect.
“As a woman born with a condition caused by a neural tube defect – a particularly hated disability in Margaret’s way of thinking – my own struggle for justice and inclusion stands in stark contrast [to Sanger’s],” she added. “My own life is a testament, as I’ve said before, that living with a disability really isn’t the end of the world.”
The legacy of Sanger’s eugenics lives on in the high abortion rate in pregnancies that have a “negative” pre-natal diagnosis like Down syndrome, Ortiz maintained. Anywhere from 61-93 percent of pregnancies with a diagnosis like Down syndrome end in abortion, according to a study referenced by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, a pro-life research group.
Although abortion is still legal and widespread, there is hope for the pro-life movement, said Ken Blackwell, former Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
“There was an opportunity for us to take our marbles and go home in ’73, but we’ve continued to fight. Today, we are standing before this National Portrait Gallery because we understand that man makes culture, and culture influences man,” he stated.