June 24, 2008


A Dark Past: Contraception, abortion, and the eugenics movement: An excerpt from Liberal FascismJonah Goldberg, National Review)

Margaret Sanger, whose American Birth Control League became Planned Parenthood, was the founding mother of the birth-control movement. She is today considered a liberal saint, a founder of modern feminism, and one of the leading lights of the Progressive pantheon. Gloria Feldt of Planned Parenthood proclaims, “I stand by Margaret Sanger’s side,” leading “the organization that carries on Sanger’s legacy.” Planned Parenthood’s first black president, Faye Wattleton — Ms. magazine’s “Woman of the Year” in 1989 — said that she was “proud” to be “walking in the footsteps of Margaret Sanger.” Planned Parenthood gives out annual Maggie Awards to individuals and organizations who advance Sanger’s cause. Recipients are a Who’s Who of liberal icons, from the novelist John Irving to the producers of NBC’s West Wing. What Sanger’s liberal admirers are eager to downplay is that she was a thoroughgoing racist who subscribed completely to the views of E. A. Ross and other “raceologists.” Indeed, she made many of them seem tame. [...]

Under the banner of “reproductive freedom,” Sanger subscribed to nearly all of the eugenic views discussed above. She sought to ban reproduction of the unfit and regulate reproduction for everybody else. She scoffed at the soft approach of the “positive” eugenicists, deriding it as mere “cradle competition” between the fit and the unfit. “More children from the fit, less from the unfit — that is the chief issue of birth control,” she frankly wrote in her 1922 book The Pivot of Civilization. (The book featured an introduction by Wells, in which he proclaimed, “We want fewer and better children...and we cannot make the social life and the world-peace we are determined to make, with the ill-bred, ill-trained swarms of inferior citizens that you inflict on us.” Two civilizations were at war: that of progress and that which sought a world “swamped by an indiscriminate torrent of progeny.”

A fair-minded person cannot read Sanger’s books, articles, and pamphlets today without finding similarities not only to Nazi eugenics but to the dark dystopias of the feminist imagination found in such allegories as Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale. As editor of The Birth Control Review, Sanger regularly published the sort of hard racists we normally associate with Goebbels or Himmler. Indeed, after she resigned as editor, The Birth Control Review ran articles by people who worked for Goebbels and Himmler. For example, when the Nazi eugenics program was first getting wide attention, The Birth Control Review was quick to cast the Nazis in a positive light, giving over its pages for an article titled “Eugenic Sterilization: An Urgent Need,” by Ernst Rüdin, Hitler’s director of sterilization and a founder of the Nazi Society for Racial Hygiene. In 1926 Sanger proudly gave a speech to a KKK rally in Silver Lake, New Jersey.

One of Sanger’s closest friends and influential colleagues was the white supremacist Lothrop Stoddard, author of The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy. In the book he offered his solution for the threat posed by the darker races: “Just as we isolate bacterial invasions, and starve out the bacteria, by limiting the area and amount of their food supply, so we can compel an inferior race to remain in its native habitat.” When the book came out, Sanger was sufficiently impressed to invite him to join the board of directors of the American Birth Control League.

Sanger’s genius was to advance Ross’s campaign for social control by hitching the racist-eugenic campaign to sexual pleasure and female liberation.

Everyone always acts surprised when the Brights take their ideas--like Darwinism--seriously.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at June 24, 2008 9:48 AM

Having marinated in sex without reproduction for two generations now, we forget contraception's evil origins and that it was condemned by all mainline churches well into the 20th Century. Lambeth 1930 was the first crack in the wall, no surprise.

Posted by: Jorge Curioso at June 24, 2008 11:40 AM

The sad irony though is that National Review's own John Derbyshire probably has a portrait of Sanger hanging in his office -- above the bust of Darwin, and opposite the Enoch Powell action figure.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at June 24, 2008 5:53 PM

No one is more prone than a libertarian to hate those who aren't just like him, for obvious reasons.

Posted by: oj at June 24, 2008 8:23 PM

Ever since I was 12 or so I've not understood why people get all upset when the Catholic Church tells them that contraception leads to more (presumably irresponsible) sexual behavior. Put aside all ethical issues and focus solely on the logic involved. Reducing the cost of an action, or the short-term bad consequences of an action, means you'll get more of it. What about this is hard to follow?

Posted by: Matt Murphy at June 25, 2008 7:16 AM
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