Last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accepted Planned Parenthood's Margaret Sanger Award, named after the founder of the American Birth Control League, which changed its name to Planned Parenthood in the 1940s. In her remarks, Clinton singled out the namesake of the award for praise:
Now, I have to tell you that it was a great privilege when I was told that I would receive this award. I admire Margaret Sanger enormously, her courage, her tenacity, her vision ... And when I think about what she did all those years ago in Brooklyn, taking on archetypes, taking on attitudes and accusations flowing from all directions, I am really in awe of her.
Clinton lamented that "Margaret Sanger's work here in the United States and certainly across our globe is not done."
Here at home, there are still too many women who are denied their rights because of income, because of opposition, because of attitudes that they harbor. But around the world, too many women are denied even the opportunity to know about how to plan and space their families. They're denied the power to do anything about the most intimate of decisions.
Mrs. Sanger, of course, wasn't the benevolent advocate for human rights that Clinton's remarks make her out to be. In fact, Sanger's "vision" for birth control seems to be united to a eugenic vision. In the October 1921 issue of The Birth Control Review, Sanger wrote that "the campaign for Birth Control is not merely of eugenic value, but is practically identical in ideal with the final aim of Eugenics." Sanger laid out the "principles and aims" of the American Birth Control League in an appendix to her 1922 work, The Pivot of Civilization. Two and a half pages are devoted to the principles of the American Birth Control league, which begins:
The complex problems now confronting America as the result of the practice of reckless procreation are fast threatening to grow beyond human control. Everywhere we see poverty and large families going hand in hand. Those least fit to carry on the race are increasing most rapidly. People who cannot support their own offspring are encouraged by Church and State to produce large families. Many of the children thus begotten are diseased or feeble minded. Many become criminals. The burden of supporting these unwanted types has to be borne by the healthy elements of the nation. Funds that should be used to raise the standard of our civilization are diverted to the maintenance of those who should never have been born.
Of the 11 aims of the American Birth Control League outlined by Sanger after an explanation of its principles, only two are not directly related to the problem that Sanger called "dysgenic breeding." One of the most shocking "aims" of the ABCL is the "sterilization of the insane and feeble minded and the encouragement of this operation upon those afflicted with inherited or transmissible diseases with the understanding that sterilization does not deprive the individual of his or her sex expression but merely renders him incapable of producing children." PDFs of these works are available here. When asked for clarification about Clinton's admiration of Sanger's "vision" and whether the secretary wished she had mitigated her praise with a mention of the more seedy aspects of Sanger's legacy, a State Department spokesman told The Weekly Standard yesterday that Clinton's speechwriters said Clinton's words "stand on their own." New Jersey representative Chris Smith, the co-chair of the congressional pro-life caucus, said that he doesn't think it's possible to separate Sanger's eugenicist aims from a greater vision. "If you read the books--I've read the books--[eugenics] is absolutely the pillar of everything Sanger did," said Smith. "Look at what movement she spawned in terms of getting rid of the 'undesirables,' and that could be the disabled, African Americans, and just about every other group of people. I mean, Catholics, Italians, and Irish. I mean, that is a very pathetic and sick perspective towards the human race, and yet she's idolized by, of all people, our secretary of state."
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