It’s always interesting to share information about a polarizing figure who would typically ignite a healthy debate—if any of us really debated anymore. Instead, we pick sides, dig in our heels, and hurl insults at each other. Abortion is a subject that tends to separate people on one side or another and there is one person most identified with abortion: Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. So, Margaret Sanger’s life—as she reflected upon it—will be the subject of this blog.
Sanger died I966 but paid me a visit not long ago. Her message was enlightening, so this is a perfect opportunity to allow you a peek into the next volume of SOULS OF LEGENDS SPEAK coming early in 2023.
This blog comes on the heels of another recent one that deals with how foolish it is to form inflexible judgments about another soul; yet people do that all the time. Since I only included a tiny bit of Margaret Sanger’s comments in the earlier post, I felt her message was so revealing that I knew she’d be someone wonderful to stimulate us all to think more and simply repeat less.
The following pre-message may change a little before the final manuscript is complete but this is a rough idea of how I was planning to introduce Margaret Sanger’s missive to readers.
This was one soul about whom I wanted to be totally objective in my comments, since my limited knowledge of her life had formed a bias of sorts with me and because I try not to firmly judge, I decided to do research on her life, before I sat down with pen and paper to transcribe what she had to say. I wanted to balance any bias I had with a few facts to help me understand her better. In other words, I wanted to provide a context for readers that was totally neutral. What I found in my research was that Margaret Sanger’s life was a walking conflict.
With her early clinics, she was most focused on birth control not abortion and believed that if women were more in control of the former, the latter would become unnecessary. Then, after World War I, Sanger increasingly appealed to the societal pressure by some to limit births among those least able to afford children. She also found a common area of overlap with eugenicists since both sought to “assist the race toward the elimination of the unfit.” Although she didn’t define “unfit” and didn’t speak specifically to race or ethnicity being determining factors, she did articulate birth control in terms of racial betterment. She also supported restricted immigration, but it seemed economics was the main driver of determining “unfit”.
Margaret Sanger believed a woman should make such choices in terms of her family or her ability to afford children, among other factors, because since the woman was giving birth, she should have control of her body. Ironically, where she placed her clinics and where they continue to be located speaks volumes. Even in the beginning, they’d be found in the least educated communities where the populations are minority race dominant.
Economics is one thing but the most tragic belief she seemed to hold was a eugenics policy which included full family planning autonomy for the able-minded, but compulsory segregation or sterilization for the “profoundly retarded”. Today, parents of children with special needs find their lives the most blessed! Again, she may or may not have ever clarified this.
Although eugenics pops up a lot in readings about Margaret Sanger, in personal correspondence she expressed her sadness about the aggressive and lethal Nazi eugenics program and donated to the American council Against Nazi Propaganda. What drove her displeasure about the aggressive nature of the Nazi program is unclear whether it was because it was population driven or state driven, who knows?
With those who idolize Margaret Sanger’s efforts and those who consider her a demon, I can’t wait to read what Margaret had to say, herself. It’s only her soul’s perspective that really counts, anyway.
(1879-1966) American birth control activist, sex educator, writer, and nurse who
popularized the term “birth control”, opened the first birth control clinic in the United States and established what is now called Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
I think you question who I was and what my intent was because you have heard bits and pieces about me and you criticize the aggressive intent of Planned Parenthood and some of the damage it may have caused to how we should hold all children to our hearts, those born and unborn. I’m not sure anyone else would speak to a potential bias with you but I also would not have come to speak had I not known how fair, open, and nonjudgmental you are. You may have a flash opinion, but you leave it floating there without an anchor to drop it into one camp or another. You wait. God Bless you, my friend.
I want you to know my soul and know me better. So, here I am.
I was a woman for empowerment of individuals, especially women, who had been too long held captive by society and pigeonholed into restrictive little boxes in which they were to live their lives. Women truly had no freedom and yet their bodies were used to breed, sometimes involuntarily. God leads women to bring children into this world, either through an incredible maternal desire or by giving her a body by which childbirth is less challenging. Yet, there are women who are forced into sex, yes—even by their husbands, for the purpose or procreation and then left to worry about how to feed them and nourish them even with meager support. It was not right.
My focus was always on education and birth control; that was first! Then, as my eyes were opened wider, I saw women‑so very desperate to save the children they had and themselves and their bodies so worn with childbearing that they didn’t even have the strength to care for their babies. I know this sounds exaggerated, for many it was not. So, I wanted to make safe the hidden abortions that were happening at incapable and dangerous hands, sometimes the women’s own. Abortion also became a part of what I offered but it was to be secondary.
My conscious bothered me, even in those times knowing I was doing right so when eugenics came into my reality, I realized some of it made sense and I vocalized that out loud—perhaps to rationalize my methods, even to me. The hopelessly infirmed, the children of diseased and afflicted (drugs and the like) might not have a fighting chance at all or parents who could care for them. It was always for the children, not for the ease of the parents.
Today, people have taken my work to extreme and used my name. The pendulum has swung widely. Where it is today is not my intent and was never my intent. I had compassion for the poor, the handicapped (limited to the care they could provide – especially to multiple children) and the severely mentally challenged who became receptacles for God knows what. I meant for abortion to help the extreme, to make their lives easier and the lives of their children.
I did not mean abortion for the convenience of selfish women who just didn’t want to take the time to raise the children for which they, too, were responsible for bringing into this world. Nor did I mean for it to reduce races or change God’s plan for this world.
I see how my mind got swayed, I see the damage I did to God’s plan and the selfishness within society I helped encourage, yet I also know what was deep in my heart and so does God.
I’m here to thank you, Sandy, for not being too judgmental and for your wish that people would embrace adoption more so than abortion. So, do I. If not for adoption, where would you be? Thank you for giving me a chance to be heard. I hope people will remember me with more favor and will think again and for those women who do work in my name, that they will think again about how far they take their passion and do so only in the most righteous manner.
Connecting with you, my friend, in love and peace. Margaret
Now, my friends, you form your own opinion about this woman—her true intent and what has happened since. It isn’t always the originators of an idea who are responsible for where a cause goes several generations later. Perhaps all those who argue the opposite extremes of this issue will become more objective reading the founder’s own words.