Who was Margaret Sanger?

 Planned Parenthood. It generates contentious debate, but what about the hidden face behind the organization, the woman who created the movement? Who was Margaret Sanger?

A relatively unknown name, Margaret Sanger was the founder of the American Birth Control League which is known today as Planned Parenthood. For those that passionately fight for or against Planned Parenthood, it is certainly worth knowing the foundation it was built upon – one that the Big Bad Wolf could knock down with a mere exhale.

As a 22-year-old single woman and recent college graduate, I’ve learned how important it is to stay informed on news that can and does affect my daily life. This past year, I shared a house with eight other women — all of us in Planned Parenthood’s target audience — and I kept them in mind as I studied Sanger.

The American Life League’s Culture of Life Studies Program is working hard to distribute its educational program called “Who Was the Real Margaret Sanger?” The program is committed to teaching students the truth behind Planned Parenthood and creating a call to action for the pro-life movement.

In her early adult life, Sanger served the poor in the streets of New York as a nurse, although she never finished school to become a registered nurse. This noble work soon shifted in nature, as Sanger came to see children as the source of the poor’s troubles. She wanted to work to prevent births and help women obtain abortions. She believed birth control was the solution to help the poor climb out of their circumstances.

Over time her views calcified into their true form: She felt birth control was a necessary measure in order to create a “better human race.” This belief system was referred to as eugenics, defined in the American Life League’s video as “the controlled reproduction of the ‘right kind of people.’”

Sanger relentlessly pushed this sentiment in her work promoting birth control and to stop those she felt were unfit to procreate. That included the unintelligent, the unattractive and the poor, among others. This led to her push for forced sterilization, persuading some women she felt were “polluting the gene pool” to be sterilized and then providing those procedures.

Of course, the eugenics movement and the fight to create a “better race” was the basis of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime. As noted in Margaret Sanger: Father of Modern Society, Hitler agreed with Sanger’s specific work in birth control, stating “in view of the large families of the native population, it could only suit us if girls and women there had as many abortions as possible…as we could not possibly have the slightest interest in increasing the non-German population.”  The frightening parallels between the Holocaust and Margaret Sanger’s movement are incredibly eye-opening when considering the work of Planned Parenthood today.

 After researching Margaret Sanger, I felt compelled to share my findings with others, including my college housemates. Their reactions were similar to mine: shock. A big trigger was the word eugenics.

“I honestly had no idea Planned Parenthood has such dark beginnings,” one told me. It’s a lot to mull over for college-aged women such as myself who feel obligated to fight for feminism. Feminist rhetoric can often lead to the belief that being against Planned Parenthood means being against feminism. I believe this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Feminism is not contained in a small little box. You can be a feminist while still being pro-life. We saw this when some pro-life groups participated in the nationwide Women’s March in January. This knowledge can empower feminism even more. It’s prodded me to keep digging.

If you want to learn more, check out the American Life League’s Culture of Life Studies Program on the Margaret Sanger educational workbook and video.

— CCL Staff Member

— Excerpted from Family Foundations, July/August 2017. To subscribe to the only magazine created to support couples using natural family planning, visit CCL’s online store.