Rachel Marie Stone has an eye-popping piece at Christianity Today arguing that Margaret Sanger was not as bad as pro-life people have made her out to be. Never mind that Sanger was a racist eugenicist and the founder of Planned Parenthood. Stone argues that Sanger points us to the humane uses of contraception, and we should be thankful for that part of her legacy.
I don’t think that I am the only pro-life evangelical who will find this utterly unconvincing. In fact, I don’t think I’ll be the only one to be scandalized by this. Sanger’s legacy has a body-count. The attempt to salvage Sanger’s “good” by downplaying Sanger’s “bad” doesn’t pass the sniff-test. It would be like saying, “Yes, that slavery thing was pretty bad, but look at all the wonderful cotton that came from it.”
On top of that, it’s more than a little strange to hear an evangelical echo long-standing feminist tropes defending contraception on the grounds that it “reduces the number of unintended pregnancies and the need for abortion.” And there are grounds for questioning Stone on this very point. Abby Johnson offers a powerful counterpoint, arguing “Sorry folks. Contraception access increases abortions. And here’s the proof.” Johnson offers a key statistic:
Here’s a statistic from the Guttmacher Institute, Planned Parenthood’s research arm. This stat makes Planned Parenthood look terrible, so I can’t imagine that this is not accurate. They have absolutely nothing to gain by putting this out there: “More than half of women obtaining abortions in 2000 (54%) had been using a contraceptive method during the month they became pregnant.”
How is it that abortion supporters understand that birth control does not reduce abortion, yet pro-lifers don’t? Birth control was created so that we could separate sex from procreation. How do we not get that, pro-lifers? When you separate the act of sex from babies, of course abortions occur.
If the Guttmacher Institute says that the majority of women seeking abortion in the United States are using birth control, then that raises serious questions about that aspect of Stone’s argument as well.
In any case, it’s a little surprising to see any defense of Margaret Sanger on the Christianity Today website. No matter how you dress it up, Sanger’s racism and eugenics were and are indefensible. Her legacy in Planned Parenthood—the nation’s largest abortion provider—has been notoriously bloody. I just can’t imagine why anyone would offer a defense. Perhaps it makes sense when Planned Parenthood does it, but it makes no sense coming from a pro-life person.