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Planned Parenthood and Eugenics?


LynnKaboom

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So I know Planned Parenthood and the Susan G. Komen foundation have been in the news a lot recently (duh). But other than the fact that Planned Parenthood provides health care services that include abortion, I didn't really know too much about it. But today I went to class and standing outside the building was a group of grandmotherly women who gave me a pamphlet. Which isn't uncommon, we get Pamphlet People all the time on campus- sometimes they're advertising new restaurants, sometimes they're trying to evangelize, other times they're with the political parties, or different nonprofits- whatever, we're used to them. But today the Pamphlet People were handing out a pamphlet that was incredibly disturbing to me, and I've been unable to find a (reputable) source that corroborates or refutes it.

According to the pamphlet I got today, Planned Parenthood promotes eugenics, with the forcible sterilization of the mentally ill, the disabled, and non-white people. Which, I don't think I need to say, is fucked up. If it is in fact true, then I'd be really uncomfortable with this sudden show of support for a group that would want to forcibly sterilize me and a lot of my friends.

As it stands right now, I can't find a reputable source of information that isn't heavily skewed one way or another- (pro-choice: Of course not you shitheads, PP isn't a eugenics organization! Now give money so we can fund it more~!) (pro-life: No shit Sherlock, we've been telling you they're all about eugenics for years! Now give us money so we can stop them!), and since I've not heard anyone really talking about eugenics from PP, I'm willing to believe that the pamphlets were hyperbole. But at the same time, is anyone really going to go stomping about yelling "FUCK YEAH EUGENICS!"

Does anyone else know anything about this, and how true it is?

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I want to say there is some basis in (past) fact. Margret Sanger (I think that was her name), the founder of PP had some of those ideas. However, as horrible as her ideas are, quite a few people of her day held them, and when viewed in historical context, her views where on par for the time. I can't remember where exactly I read this though. I'll have to do some looking around tonight.

ETA: I've never heard of any forced sterilisations and the rest of it in current day.

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The founder of PP believed in eugenics (don't know if she was for forced sterilization (probably was) but she definitely believe poor people shouldn't have children, of course that was part classism and big part witnessing the horrible things that happened to the children in poor families back then)

The thing is, back then, almost all the intellectual-types believed in eugenics. It was the science of the day.

PP does not currently promote eugenics though. I think forced-birth people like to hone in on the fact that minorities and the poor are the ones who get the most abortions (in the case of black women, far out of proportion for their numbers in the general population) Unfortunately for them, those women are making their own decisions based on what's best for them and their families. They aren't being targeted by some big, bad pro-eugenics organization.

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Ah, OK. That does make more sense. I was thinking it would be idiotic for a major organization like that to suddenly declare themselves pro-eugenics in this day and age. Still a bit uncomfortable with the whole idea, but I suppose that taking into context the historical facts does alleviate my "WTF!" immediate reaction.

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I want to say there is some basis in (past) fact. Margret Sanger (I think that was her name), the founder of PP had some of those ideas. However, as horrible as her ideas are, quite a few people of her day held them, and when viewed in historical context, her views where on par for the time. I can't remember where exactly I read this though. I'll have to do some looking around tonight.

ETA: I've never heard of any forced sterilisations and the rest of it in current day.

At the time Sanger promoted eugenics, it was a very popular issue.

Today it is merely a strawman argument raised by folks who want to eliminate birth control and family planning.

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It is illegal to forcibly sterilize anybody. You have to get informed consent from someone in order to sterilize them. If you do not, you can be brought to court. Planned Parenthood is probably not kidnapping people off the street and forcibly sterilizing them--someone would notice.

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At the time Sanger promoted eugenics, it was a very popular issue.

Today it is merely a strawman argument raised by folks who want to eliminate birth control and family planning.

This 100%!

M.

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As others have mentioned, Sanger subscribed to the "science" of the day and supported eugenics. However, since she's been dead for more than 40 years and eugenics has been discredited, I think whoever wrote that pamphlet is just lying if they didn't put their claims in context.

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Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood) had some personal opinions that were pro-eugenics. Like destiny31 said, it was common for the time. A founder's opinion does not equal the mission statement for an organization, Planned Parenthood does not ask about race when scheduling their services. Yes they ask about economic status, but only because their fees are different for people with lower incomes. They never advise or deny services based on ability to pay (ie "You make a lot of money, you should be having children, so no birth control pills for you!").

When confronted by the pro-life/forced-birth talking point of "Margeret Sanger was a racist that believed in eugenics, how can you support her organization?", I respond that most of the founding fathers of the US believed in slavery and inferiority of some races, yet you're still proud to call yourself American. That quiets 'em.

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Alright, thanks everyone. That does make a lot more sense than what that pamphlet said.

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To give some more context, other prominent supporters of eugenics included:

Winston Churchill

Alexander Graham Bell

H.G. Wells

Marie Stopes

Theodore Roosevelt

George Bernard Shaw

and many others. Not excusing it at all, but I do believe it needs to be viewed in the context of the day.

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Still a bit uncomfortable with the whole idea

I think that's a very normal and reasonable reaction.

As far as I can tell (and I'm nowhere near an expert), there were two primary motivations behind being pro-eugenics back in the day. One was that people considered the disabled, minorities, and poor to be inherently lesser people. As far as I can tell, this was a very common belief back then, even in the mainstream culture. That's why you'd have books with stories about poor but good protagonists who, at the end, were revealed to have some noble background. The prevailing thought was that good character came from good breeding which, of course, meant bad breeding would result in a bunch of people with bad character.

The other reason to be pro-eugenics back then was that there were no social supports and no upward mobility for some people. Children who were born to the disabled or the poor were pretty much scraping the bottom of the barrel from birth and had absolutely no hope of any life beyond bone-deep poverty, starvation, and a probable early death.

Of course, none of that makes forced sterilization acceptable. But there is a reason it made sense to people within the context of the cultural experience of the time.

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When I was more hesitantly pro-choice, the Sanger thing bothered me.

Her beliefs were popular at the time, and probably more compassionate than they seem through a modern lens. Poverty was miserable then and often produced a painful death. How could one see a shack full of diseased, unsupervised, uneducated children starving to death and NOT think that the mother needs to stop having children? The poor were reliant on personal and church charities at the time, which were not sufficient. They did not have the government social programs we enjoy now.

As someone pointed out, PP has changed through the years, as has every other institution. We don't judge modern entities based on their leadership more than a century ago.

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Everyone else beat me to the punch, but I think you can safely discount any notion that PP is in favor of eugenics or forced sterilization. Such ideas are completely contrary to any form of liberal thought today. In particular, such ideas are contrary to the notion of reproductive choice, which is a huge part of PP's mission and huge part of the ethos of its grassroots supporters.

I think anti-choicers like to pretend abortion is really about eugenics because it is a way of ignoring or erasing the existence of the woman who has decided she wants or needs an abortion. By trying to make abortion seem like a plot by powerful interests to target the poor and the underprivileged, they can sidestep the fact that they are trying to force women who want abortions to give birth against their will.

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When the student university paper printed a pro-life insert, it included a quote making it look like pro-choice people are pro-eugenics. I looked up the quote, and it came from a book printed in 1938. Yes, eugenics was a popular idea at the time, but the effects of the Holocaust made the idea deeply (and rightfully) unpopular. I can't imagine any decent person or reputable organization agreeing with it today.

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I think North Carolina just recently decided to pay past victims of state sterilization some big bucks for what was done to them. Many

of these operations were performed as late as 195x. It was a very popular theory back in the day, but as someone said, the Holocaust and Hitler pushed it out of vogue. I think Hitler even awarded an award to a US university for their work in Eugenics. Then people saw Hitler in action and decided that it could be a very dangerous idea.

I think you've been hit by some serious propaganda. I would have loved to have had a discussion with that group.

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I think that the Pamphlet Pushers could put their time to much better use by promoting social welfare programs and services that allow anyone - whatever their disability, race, economic situation - to provide a stable home for their children.

That is the best answer to any claims regarding Eugenics. Do more poor women have abortions ? Probably - why ? Because they feel they won't be able to provide for their child. Do more minority women have abortions ? Probably- why ? Because they are more likely to be poor.

Get rid of the grinding misery of extreme poverty by providing childcare, housing, food etc and you will have less abortions among the poor (and by extension - non-white people )

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Remember too that many of the writers of the U.S. Constitution and signers of the Declaration of Independence were slave-holders. We abhore their beliefs on that particular subject, but we don't discard all their great work on behalf of this Republic.

I, too, think you have to look at Sanger's beliefs in the context of her times.

Another argument you sometimes see is that PP clinics are in black neighborhoods. I think many of PP clinics are in poor neighborhood because that is the clientele they serve by demand. They aren't targeting any particular race, just trying to fit the demand with the supply.

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To give some more context, other prominent supporters of eugenics included:

Winston Churchill

Alexander Graham Bell

H.G. Wells

Marie Stopes

Theodore Roosevelt

George Bernard Shaw

and many others. Not excusing it at all, but I do believe it needs to be viewed in the context of the day.

Not to beat a dead horse, but yes, eugenics was a popular cause at one point. Nellie McLung, for one, who is of course a very important Canadian figure in getting women to be recognized as "qualified persons" eligible to sit in the Senate and participate in politics, also campaigned for sterilization of people that were "simple minded" and her efforts actually contributed to sexual sterilization legislation being passed in Alberta. Eugenics was enforced in Alberta and British Columbia by law from the 1920/1930s...and this legislation was not repealed until the early 1970s! This legislation allowed the forced sterilization of what they determined to be "mentally deficient" individuals, based on certain IQ tests. Problem was, these tests also meant many new immigrants "failed" the tests due to language & cultural barriers, etc.

As horrible as eugenics is, it does not take away from the fact that she also ensured women were recognized as "qualified persons". She also pushed for property rights for married women, safety legislation for factory workers and many other reforms. I think it is possible to recognize the horror of eugenics in our modern times, in the context we have now, without throwing all the good out with it (don't throw the baby out with the bathwater!).

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In the past, eugenics was a popular idea. Poor people were forcibly sterilized for "idiocy", racial minorities were forcibly sterilized, drunks were forcibly sterilized, and some immigrants were forcibly sterilized. Oh, and the occasional person who actually had mental issues was forcibly sterilized. Hitler much admired this.

However, nobody in the US is doing this stuff now. (Heck, many people report it's HARD to get sterilized if you want to be! Doctors insist you might "change your mind" and decide, after two or three decades, that you really want kids after all.) To act as though it's ongoing is lying. And I'm pretty sure that bearing false witness is one of those sin thingies.

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I think it's pretty crazy that right-wingers claim to be against Planned Parenthood because PP fosters "eugenics," when it's the right wing that's all hot under the collar because white women aren't procreating enough and there are too many "anchor babies" coming here. Planned Parenthood improves the reproductive health of all women of whatever ethnicity or color. They don't discriminate. The same can't be said for right-wing religious nuts who basically think the poor should starve in the streets with their unsaved babies, while white Christians take over the world.

I was sure I'd read part of Margaret Sanger's autobiography online, talking about the horrible conditions she encountered as a nurse in NYC. The suffering of women and children was what inspired her crusade for birth control. I can't find that passage now, but here's a site that reprints some of the pleading letters she received from women who were literally dying and going insane from the pressure of constant pregnancy. Note that one of the most important reasons these women give for wanting to control their fertility is their grief over the suffering of the children they already had. They LOVED their children and wanted to take care of them.

"I Am Almost a Prisoner": Women Plead for Contraception

http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5083/

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At one time 30 states had laws promoting compulsory sterilization. North Carolina is one state that aggressively sterilized women they deemed to be unfit for parenting, well into the 1970's and just last month a NC panel recommended as reparation to any of those women still living, a whopping $50,000. [cite] Native American women endured an involuntary sterilization rate, also well into the 1970's, by some estimates as high as 25% of women of childbearing age.

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So I know Planned Parenthood and the Susan G. Komen foundation have been in the news a lot recently (duh). But other than the fact that Planned Parenthood provides health care services that include abortion, I didn't really know too much about it. But today I went to class and standing outside the building was a group of grandmotherly women who gave me a pamphlet. Which isn't uncommon, we get Pamphlet People all the time on campus- sometimes they're advertising new restaurants, sometimes they're trying to evangelize, other times they're with the political parties, or different nonprofits- whatever, we're used to them. But today the Pamphlet People were handing out a pamphlet that was incredibly disturbing to me, and I've been unable to find a (reputable) source that corroborates or refutes it.

According to the pamphlet I got today, Planned Parenthood promotes eugenics, with the forcible sterilization of the mentally ill, the disabled, and non-white people. Which, I don't think I need to say, is fucked up. If it is in fact true, then I'd be really uncomfortable with this sudden show of support for a group that would want to forcibly sterilize me and a lot of my friends.

As it stands right now, I can't find a reputable source of information that isn't heavily skewed one way or another- (pro-choice: Of course not you shitheads, PP isn't a eugenics organization! Now give money so we can fund it more~!) (pro-life: No shit Sherlock, we've been telling you they're all about eugenics for years! Now give us money so we can stop them!), and since I've not heard anyone really talking about eugenics from PP, I'm willing to believe that the pamphlets were hyperbole. But at the same time, is anyone really going to go stomping about yelling "FUCK YEAH EUGENICS!"

Does anyone else know anything about this, and how true it is?

After a run-in with a fundie-Catholic friend of a friend on fb, I was waiting for someone to post a thread on this! Apparently PP founder Margaret Sanger was into eugenics, but yeah, it was the 1930s, so were a lot of people. I find it ridiculous to think that the goals and views of the modern Planned Parenthood are exactly the same as Sanger's.

I've never actually heard the claim that modern Planned Parenthood wants to forcibly sterilize anyone, and I find it VERY hard to believe. What I have heard, and what the fb friend's friend went on about, was that they are a racist organization, because of their founder's being into eugenics combined with the fact that many clinics are located in black neighborhoods. Well, yeah, there sadly is still a correlation between race and poverty in America, and of course a clinic that serves low-income women would be located in low-income communities.

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I think anti-choicers like to pretend abortion is really about eugenics because it is a way of ignoring or erasing the existence of the woman who has decided she wants or needs an abortion. By trying to make abortion seem like a plot by powerful interests to target the poor and the underprivileged, they can sidestep the fact that they are trying to force women who want abortions to give birth against their will.

This.

Said by someone who is not too comfortable with abortion from a moral standpoint but feels that every woman should have the CHOICE to have one safely and legally.

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