Planned Parenthood is not a name people normally associate with racist or eugenic organizations. But in this article, I will present some chilling, documented evidence that the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, was an avowed racist and eugenicist, and that her organizations had several ties to modern history’s most devastating experiment in eugenics: the Third Reich.
Planned Parenthood’s Secret History
The Eugenics Movement of the 19th Century
Thomas R. Malthus was a leading thinker in the eugenics movement of the 19th century. The movement warned that overpopulation was a dire problem for the future well-being of the human race, that it was a prime cause of poverty, and that the only solution was a purification of the race through a purging of the “unfit” from the gene pool.
Malthus’s best known work was “An Essay on the Principle of Population”, first published in 1798, and in it he said that “all children born, beyond what would be required to keep up the population to a desired level, must necessarily perish, unless room is made for them by the deaths of grown persons. We should facilitate, instead of foolishly and vainly endeavoring to impede, the operations of nature in producing this mortality.” He went on to strongly discourage the acts of charity that impede nature’s normal process of weeding out the weak.
Among the list of those who should be purged included:
- The poor
- the physically and mentally handicapped
- The racially inferior
Was Planned Parenthood’s Founder, Margaret Sanger, a Eugenicist?
Understandably, Planned Parenthood today does not want to be associated with the Eugenics movement or be accused of any kind of racism, and so they deny that Sanger was either. And like most politically motivated denials, this one does not square with the facts.
Sanger’s premiere publication, The Birth Control Review (founded in 1917) regularly published articles explicitly promoting eugenics, with titles like:
- “Some Moral Aspects of Eugenics” (June 1920)
- “The Eugenic Conscience” (February 1921)
- “The Purpose of Eugenics” (December 1924)
- “Birth Control and Positive Eugenics” (July 1925)
- “Birth Control: The True Eugenics” (August 1928)
Sanger published a book in 1922, called The Pivot of Civilization, in which she echoed all of the sentiments of Malthus. Sanger claimed that there came a point where charity did more harm than good. “Such a point, it seems obvious, is reached when the incurably defective are permitted to procreate and thus increase their numbers.” The elite are then forced to carry what she called “a dead weight of human waste.”
To Sanger, this was more than just a burden to society: it was an outright threat to its survival. Just how dangerous are these “dregs” to the well-being of civilization? “These are the most dangerous elements in the world community, the most devastating curse on human progress and expression.”
If not addressed, she issued this chilling warning about the future: “Possibly drastic and Spartan methods may be forced upon American society if it continues complacently to encourage the chance and chaotic breeding that has resulted from our stupid, cruel sentimentalism.” To clarify her reference, the Spartans were required to bring every baby before a group of elders who would carefully inspect the infant. If any sign of defects were found, the baby was tossed off of a cliff.
What, exactly, is this cruel sentimentalism she’s getting at?
In a chapter entitled “The Cruelty of Charity,” she lamented the dangers of benevolence and altruism, “dangers which have to-day produced their full harvest of human waste.” To be clear, she is in no way lamenting that altruism has not gone far enough, but that it should be put to rest: “my criticism, therefore, is not directed at the ‘failure’ of philanthropy, but rather at its success.”
Of all the acts of benevolence she condemns, there is one “more insidiously injurious than any other: supply GRATIS medical and nursing facilities to slum mothers,” which she takes to be “the surest sign that our civilization has bred, is breeding and is perpetuating constantly increasing numbers of defectives, delinquents and dependents.”
Sterilization and Segregation: Sanger’s Preferred Methodology
But what to do? It’s one thing to moan about “defectives,” its another thing to try and get rid of them. In the same book, Sanger said, “There is but one practical and feasible program in handling the great problem of the feeble-minded. That is, as the best authorities are agreed, to prevent the birth of those who would transmit imbecility to their descendants.” But how to do it? Here, she is quite clear: “We prefer the policy of immediate sterilization, of making sure that parenthood is absolutely prohibited.”
And if that is not possible, her backup plan is just as clear: “Every feeble-minded girl or woman of the hereditary type, especially of the moron class, should be segregated during the reproductive period. Otherwise, she is almost certain to bear imbecile children.”
After reading this, you might be tempted to think that perhaps she was influenced by the Nazis. But that’s actually historically backwards. All of this was written before the Nazis came to power. So it would be more accurate to consider whether Sanger’s efforts influenced the Nazis.
Did Planned Parenthood’s Founder Help Start a Movement that Inspired Nazi Germany?
If this sounds outlandish to you, try and make sense of these facts:
- The German sterilization program began in January 1934. The first sterilization law in the U.S. was passed 27 years earlier by the State of Indiana.
- Before Germany ever started, 17 U.S. States had written forced sterilization laws, and after 1930, thousands of women a year were being sterilized against their will. (Reilly, 1991)
- The leaders of Nazi Germany’s sterilization movement actually studied the practice of the State of California, and modeled themselves after it (Kopp, 1933)
Most people aren’t aware of how strong and formative the eugenics movement was in America. Most people assume that racism and eugenics were only written about in America by angry fringe groups like the KKK. But forced sterilization of minority women lasted for 65 years, and was not ended in the U.S. until 1972! (Strange, isn’t it, that abortion became legal the very next year?)
Are There Any Ties Between Planned Parenthood and Nazi Germany?
The Influence of Ernst Rudin
Ernst Rudin was the director of the leading German institute on eugenics, called the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Genealogy. When addressing the German Society for Racial Hygiene, Rudin lamented the early days of his efforts when people failed to see the superiority of the “Nordic race” in the creation of superior art, technology, and culture, and instead foolishly wasted their energies trying to help and preserve the “defectives.” (Tucker, 1994)
On June 2 of 1933, Rudin was placed on a committee by the 3rd Reich to determine Nazi racial policy, and 12 days later, the committees recommendations for the sterilization of the genetically inferior were made law.
Did Rudin have any scruples about how Hitler had accomplished his “purification?” On the contrary, he had nothing but praise for him, saying that the significance of racial hygiene “did not become evident to all aware Germans until the political activity of Adolf Hitler and only through his work has our 30 year long dream of translating racial hygiene into action finally become a reality,” later calling it a “duty of honor” for Germans to aid Hitler in the task (Rudin, 1934.)
Why am I telling you about a doctor of the 3rd Reich in a blog about Abortion in America? Because three months before those sterilization laws were passed in Germany, Margaret Sanger’s Birth Control Review published Rudin’s article on eugenic sterilization: “Eugenic Sterilization: An Urgent Need.”
The Influence of Lothrop Stoddard
Lothrop Stoddard, a published Harvard Scholar, was an outspoken white supremacist, praising the success of the white race over all others in history. In his most famous work, entitled “The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy,” he says, “At the close of the nineteenth century the white man stood the indubitable master of the world… The white man could think, could create, could fight superlatively well. No wonder the redskins and Negroes feared and adored him as a god.”
When classifying the value of each race, Stoddard put the white race at the top and the black race at the bottom, saying of the black race, “Left to himself, he remained a savage,” and arguing that the only time the black race has transcended savagery is when other superior races have intervened. But this intervention he also lamented, saying that “crossings with the Negro are uniformly fatal.”
In his own book on the Nazis, Stoddard praised them for increasing the quality of their population and putting a “drastic curb of the defective elements,” and that they were “weeding out the worst strains in the Germanic stock in a scientific and truly humanitarian way.” He personally met with Adolf Hitler, claiming in 1940 that the “Jew problem” had already been settled because the Nazis are eliminating them (Kuhl, 1994)
No surprise that his writings on race were featured in Nazi school textbooks (Shire, 1941)!
Why am I telling you about Lothrop Stoddard? Because he was, along with Margaret Sanger, a founding member of the Birth Control League, which became the Birth Control Federation of America in 1939, and was then renamed Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1942.
It doesn’t end there.
Planned Parenthood’s international affiliate for years shared offices with the Eugenics Society. In 1934, Leon Whitney of the Eugenics Society received a request for his book, “The Case for Sterilization,” from the office of none other than Adolf Hitler, after which Hitler sent him a personal letter of thanks! (Kuhl, 1994)
Hanz Harmson, who helped write the sterilization laws for 3rd Reich, also helped start Planned Parenthood’s German affiliate!
So does all this mean that the current leaders of Planned Parenthood still have a racist agenda? Without evidence, we can’t make specific accusations against specific people, but what we can do is examine their strategies and see if there is a racist agenda implicit in who they market to and in where they place their clinics. In our next article, we’ll get into this and the effect that Planned Parenthood has had on the black population since its founding.
We welcome your comments! And if you haven’t gotten a copy of Blood Money, our full length documentary film yet, we cover this topic in a lot of detail with some great expert interviews. We have a limited supply of sleeve-only copies available for only $13!
- Bahr, Lauren Collier’s Encyclopedia Vol. 20. P.F. Collier. New York 1992.
- Childress, BlackGenocide.org
- E. Rudin, E. “Aufgaben and Ziele der Deutschen Gesellschaft fur Rassenhygiene,” Archiv Fur Rassen- und Gesellschafts- biologie 28 (1934): 228-29
- Encyclopedia Brittanica, Inc. Chicago, 1992.
- Gordon, Linda, (2003). The Moral Property of Women: A History of Birth Control Politics in America. Urbana: University of Illinois Press
- Katz, Esther (Editor), Peter C. Engelman (Editor), Cathy Moran Hajo (Editor), Amy Flanders (Editor) (2006). The Selected Papers of Margaret Sanger, Volume 2: Birth Control Comes of Age, 1928-1939. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-03137-7.
- Katz, Esther, et al. The selected papers of Margaret Sanger, Volume 1: The Woman Rebel, 1900-1928. (2003). Urbana: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-02737-X.
- Kopp, Marie E, Legal and Medical Aspects of Eugenic Sterilization in Germany, (American Sociological Review, 1936:763)
- Malthus, Thomas. “Essay on the Principle of Population,” 1798
- Mosher, Steven.W. The Wall Street Journal “The Repackaging of Margaret Sanger,” Monday, May 5, 1997.
- Philip R. Reilly, Phillip, The Surgical Solution, (John’s Hopkins University Press, 1991)
- Popenoe, Paul, Eugenic Sterilization, (Birth Control Review, April 1933)
- Robert N. Racial Hygiene, p. 95
- Sanger, M. “Birth Control of the Negro,” 1939
- Sanger, M. “Code to Stop the Overproduction of Children,” 1934
- Sanger, M. What Every Girl Should Know, 1920.
- Sanger. M. “Pivot of Civilization,” 1922
- Shire, William. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1941):257
- Stefan. The Nazi Connection (Eugenics, American Racism, And German National Socialism), , Oxford University Press, 1994, p. 62
- Stoddard, Lothrop. Into The Darkness: Nazi Germany Today, 1940, pp. 190-191
- Tucker, William H. (The Science and Politics of Racial Research, 1994, University of Illinois Press, p121)