Margaret Sanger’s legacy is not salvageable, so let’s not try.

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.


  • dr. james willingham

    I am sure there are some Black folks here in North Carolina who would like to get Ms.
    Sanger in a court of law for the misery that they suffered due to her Eugenic Program. One with the past year or two won in the courts, but the state legislature would not appropriate the funds to pay her for the sterilization performed on her…even without justification (she was not retarded…though why the people who are mentally challenged should be considered inferior and thus subjected to such indignity or even, as in German under the same Eugenic program, extermination/death. You all should note the name of the foundation which provided the money for Germany to institute the Eugenics program there, the Rockefeller Foundation, according to the web. I suppose they also had a hand in the American Eugenics program, not to consider them solely responsible. After all, the Supreme Court made at least one decision which gave rein to such evil.

  • dr. james willingham

    Just think: In 1972, the year I came to Seminary, the last sterilization was performed on an African American in North Carolina. It makes me sick to think of the evils done, but I feel even sicker to think of the evils going on now, abortion and euthanasia with second class status just around the corner, as soon as the Supreme Court makes its decision, forcing everyone to go along to get along or go to prison or a re-education camp. The aim is a civil war and the real aim is to reduce the population of the USA to 50,000,000 and the world’s to 500,000,000. That means 6.5 billion people have to die, one way or the other. Just think of the chemical brew in our water and food supplies, chemicals that the Nazis used in their experiments on people in the concentration camps.

  • bravelassKamilla Ludwig

    Denny, Denny, Denny, if you are surprised by this piece, you haven’t been paying attention to the wimmin of CT. I’m serious about that.

    But I’m thankful to see you and so many Evangelicals jump on this via blogs and social media. I can’t tell you how angry this made me. OTOH, it did make me forget my creepy experience of encountering a man who insisted on using the ladies room at a restaurant today.

  • Brian Holland

    Let the progressive Democrats own Margaret Sanger’s legacy. PP awards people the “Margaret Sanger Award” and I’m pretty sure it’s one of their highest honors. Anyone who pays tribute to her, whether they claim to be Christian or not, has exposed themselves for what they truly are- godless progressives. Case in point, the president saying “God Bless Planned Parenthood.”

  • Paul Reed

    This is counter-intuitive to most Americans, but at one time birth control was regarded as a moral evil by most Americans. Abortion was certainly regarded as evil, but so was any type of birth control device. And this was a very mainstream view. With the exception of a small fringe here and there, the idea of birth control, and divorcing sex from procreation was regarded as wicked. Margaret Sanger and her ilk changed this. When we look at birth control as morally neutral or acceptable, this is a result of Sanger.

    Some will claim Margaret Sanger was notable for her racist views. Not true. For her time, her views were quite common. America has a very racist past, and denying this is denying truth. If you think Sanger was an anomaly, read what Henry Ford wrote about the Jews. Or just read anything on race for that matter. In was not uncommon to see opinion articles in mainstream papers that a modern reader might mistake for a hate group.

    • 60guilders

      Even Sanger was regarded as being a bit rabid. Furthermore, forced sterilization met with much resistance, primarily by Catholics (to the shame of Evangelicals, who gave into the culture).

  • Brett Cody

    There is a horrific reality that Sanger fought for in her lifetime. Even the subtle nuances of her worldview are stomach-turning. But for Stone to publish in a “Christian” journal a serious attempt at defending Sanger’s obviously un-Christian worldview incites moral outrage. Shame on Rachel Marie Stone.
    Thank you, Denny for yet again calling a spade a spade.

  • Christiane Smith

    Before destroying Planned Parenthood’s neighborhood network of clinics, it would be merciful to establish GYN clinics for poor women in our country that do cancer screenings. That this is important goes without saying. Women’s health needs to be supported by everyone, whatever their politics or their theology, because it’s the right thing to do.

    There is a voice for another point of view, TX Rep. Sarah Davis R-Houston:
    ““I don’t think it is appropriate to continue to fund the Women’s Health Program so that we can make some type of a political statement as Republicans that we care about women, only to chip away at the safety net of the providers,” Davis told her colleagues at a committee hearing on Tuesday. “If we don’t have the provider network, women cannot be served. And they will die.”
    Davis, who survived breast cancer at the age of 32, told HuffPost that she is frustrated that her colleagues are using women’s health as a political football.
    “I believe the sole purpose is to ensure that Planned Parenthood clinics don’t receive any funding,” she said. “The problem with that is I know Planned Parenthood can be a partisan issue, but I don’t think women’s health should be.””

    Christian people do not harm others knowingly. Nor do they support those actions which remove needed assistance to poor women that can save their lives. So if one source of help for poor women becomes targeted, it is important to FIRST replace it with another source of help for them, which they can access both practically and financially. If Christian people want changes made, let those changes be done with thought for all concerned, especially those who live at the fringes and depend on the mercy of others.

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