The headline in a recent weekend edition of The New York Times was stark, “I’m the Head of Planned Parenthood: We’re Done Making Excuses for Our Founder.” The author of the piece, Alexis McGill Johnson, went on to proclaim that her organization, the prime progenitor of abortion in the United States and perhaps worldwide, would have to “reckon” with their founder, Margaret Sanger, and her association with “white supremacist groups and eugenics.”
The acknowledgement of Sanger’s notorious views on Planned Parenthood’s use of birth control to eliminate those she regarded as nothing but “human weeds” — by such methods as forced sterilization, birth permits and segregated camps for the unfit — is important. But Johnson’s confession is short on specifics, and to say it is overdue is like acknowledging the Hindenburg had a fire on board. Margaret Sanger’s Planned Parenthood has spent more than a century building a citadel of prejudice with profound, even irreversible, effects on African Americans and the poor.
It is too bad that we know no more about Sanger’s 1926 address to a women’s auxiliary of the Ku Klux Klan in New Jersey than her self-report, in her autobiography, that the audience reaction was enthusiastic and led to “a dozen invitations to speak to similar groups.” In short, she resonated. Her views not only had long-term influence on the location of Planned Parenthood clinics, but they also helped drive passage of the infamous federal anti-immigration legislation of 1924 and praise for the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the constitutionality of forced sterilization laws in Buck v. Bell in 1927.
Nearly a century later these impacts are still being felt. America has become so used to the disparate impact of abortion on U.S. minorities that some actually advocate for public funding of abortion because it will result in even more abortions. Today in the United States, the abortion rate of African American women is over three times that of white women. Planned Parenthood, which has only sporadically reported the abortions it performs by race, owns roughly 40 percent of this traffic. From 2000 to 2010 African Americans as a percentage of the total U.S. population dropped by one seventh. What an incalculable loss to our national and community well-being this is.
How might Planned Parenthood reckon with its sordid past? Recognition is a first step, but clearly much more is necessary. However unlikely, the group might begin with a recognition that every human life is of equal worth, regardless of that life’s parentage, potential scores on competitive tests, country of origin, religion, or skin color. Planned Parenthood might begin to scorn those who say prenatal disability, or sex, or race are grounds for “termination” of human life by dismemberment that tears bodies limb from limb and shreds the dreams of the vulnerable.
Planned Parenthood might take another look at the effort by the Mississippi legislature to protect babies at and after 15 weeks of pregnancy. An analysis of Mississippi’s 2019 annual abortion report by the Charlotte Lozier Institute shows that an astonishing 2,366 – that is 74% – of the state’s 3,194 abortions were inflicted on black women. These numbers represent a failure of health care – its very antithesis.
Planned Parenthood might even consider some of the bright spots in its history, those rare moments when, through a program like the Mississippi Health Project, Dr. Dorothy Ferebee, a Planned Parenthood board member, teamed with Ida Jackson and the international AKA Sorority to bring mobile clinics to Mississippi’s rural poor women. This effort, which brought as many as 46 black female physicians to the state during the summer months, remains one of the most impressive examples of voluntarism in the history of the Jim Crow South.
Our call is clear. It is indeed time to stop making excuses — and to start making amends. Our nation needs a clarion summons for both racial reconciliation and a renewed reverence for life. The real freedom to choose is the choice for love and respect for the youngest and weakest in our midst.
Marjorie Dannenfelser is president of Susan B. Anthony List.
Burgess Owens is the U.S. Representative of Utah’s fourth congressional district.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.