Planned Parenthood of Greater New York announced Tuesday that they plan on removing founder Margaret Sanger’s name from a key clinic after acknowledging Sanger’s legacy of supporting eugenics and racism and as part of an effort to reckon with the organization’s history.
Pro-life groups have long pointed out that Sanger’s purpose in founding Planned Parenthood was to encourage communities of color and other “unfit” and “feeble-minded” groups to practice strict birth control — at least according to Sanger’s own writings, which are widely available.
“Today eugenics is suggested by the most diverse minds as the most adequate and thorough avenue in the solution of racial, political, and social problems,” Sanger wrote in 1921, for example.
Previously, though, the abortion provider has brushed off concerns about Sanger’s beliefs as “complicated,” and described her own letters, which refer to using abortion “to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective,” as “inartfully written.” Supporters insist that Sanger’s ultimate goal was to empower women to control their own fertility — a goal which, for them, all but erases her more unsavory beliefs.
But last month, following the death of George Floyd while in the custody of the Minneapolis police department, employees of Planned Parenthood Greater New York (PPGNY) published an open letter accusing the corporation’s hierarchy of gross mismanagement, and pointing out Sanger’s flaws as a key element of the group’s ongoing issues with “white supremacy.”
“Planned Parenthood was founded by a racist, white woman,” the letter noted. “That is a part of history that cannot be changed. While efforts have been made to undo some of the harm from institutional racism, many of these issues have worsened.”
Tuesday, in response, PPGNY announced that they would take the extreme step of removing Sanger’s name from their clinic, now previously known as the “Margaret Sanger Center.”
“The removal of Margaret Sanger’s name from our building is both a necessary and overdue step to reckon with our legacy and acknowledge Planned Parenthood’s contributions to historical reproductive harm within communities of color,” PPGNY’s affiliate board chairwoman announced in a statement, per The New York Times.
“The group is also talking to city leaders about replacing Ms. Sanger’s name on a street sign that has hung near its offices on Bleecker Street for more than two decades,” the outlet also noted.
Of course, the decision to scrub Sanger’s name applies only to a single Planned Parenthood affiliate, albeit one of the nation’s largest. National Planned Parenthood still lauds Sanger’s work. Until 2015, the organization gave out an annual award bearing Sanger’s name, and their national website features a glowing “fact sheet” about its founder, which recasts Sanger’s decision to initially target communities of color for reproductive services as a civil rights victory.
The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., also features a bronze bust of Sanger.