Some anniversaries are a cause for celebration, while others are best reserved for sober reflection. In some cases, the response will depend on whom you ask.

On October 16, 1916, Planned Parenthood celebrated its centenary, dated from the opening of the world’s first birth control clinic in New York City by Margaret Sanger. The occasion was feted with praise by politicians, celebrities and other notable shapers of public opinion. Justin Trudeau and Barack Obama, among many others, tweeted their congratulations to PP under the ubiquitous hashtag, #100YearsStrong.

The dark history of the organization and its founder

For those committed to the sanctity of all human life, however, there was precious little to celebrate. Besides PP’s baleful role as America’s top abortion provider, the organization – together with its founder – has a dark history that continues to resonate into the present.

In the public narrative, PP is typically portrayed as a courageous champion of women’s health and women’s rights, rolling up its sleeves to bring reproductive health care to the women who need it most. Likewise their founder, Margaret Sanger, is depicted as a plucky heroine of first wave feminism, moved to alleviate the suffering of women living in poverty by giving them access to birth control.

The story, however, leaves out many salient details, beginning with the fact that Sanger was a staunch advocate of the eugenics movement in her day. She wasn’t motivated so much by the plight of the poor, as by the idea of improving society via controlled reproduction. Sanger wanted to eliminate those she considered “defectives” and “undesirables” – the poor, the disabled, the uneducated, certain segments of the African American community – through controlling their fertility, and if necessary, enforcing their sterilization.

To that end, Sanger helped inaugurate the so-called “Negro Project” in 1939, a birth control initiative designed to reduce what she saw as the “degenerate” element within the African American population. Even back then, Sanger knew the value of good PR. She advised the recruitment of willing African American clergy who could spin the Project to their congregations, allaying their fears that it was a form of racial extermination.

A modern spin for public relations

In the ensuing years, Planned Parenthood has distanced itself from its founder’s more troublesome views (which also included – from PP’s perspective at least – the fact that Sanger didn’t support abortion, but only birth control).

Nevertheless, the spectre of her beliefs continues to hang over the organization. PP does a disproportionate amount of business among impoverished, non-white women, who often lack the education or resources to realize they have options other than abortion. Indeed, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an African American woman is nearly five times as likely to have an abortion as a white woman, and a Latina woman more than twice as likely. In New York City in 2011, 78 percent of abortions were to black and Hispanic children, while the following year over 6,500 more African American babies were aborted than were born.

Much like their founder, PP are not above being disingenuous with the facts in order to promote their image. They claim that abortions account for only three percent of their services, a meaningless statistic hiding the fact that those abortions account for about 30 percent of their clinic revenue. An abortion, after all, is far more profitable than an STI test or a package of birth control pills.

Despite their protests to the contrary, the abortion business is very much at the heart of Planned Parenthood. In 2011, they provided nearly 334,000 abortions, compared to only about 28,000 women who received prenatal services, and a scant 2,300 who were referred to adoption agencies.

According to Abby Johnson, a former PP director who became pro-life and left the organization, “Planned Parenthood has consistently claimed to ‘care’ for women ‘no matter what’ and champion ‘women’s rights’ – yet they frantically silence any woman who thinks women deserve better than Planned Parenthood.” They aggressively pursue this strategy through misinformation, media pressure, and when deemed necessary, suppressive legal action.

For women and men committed to the sanctity of human life, a century of Planned Parenthood is no reason for celebration. For mourning and prayer, yes, but not celebration.

Sources and further reading

Joe Carter, “Why the Planned Parenthood videos didn’t change the abortion debate,” The Gospel Coalition, July 15, 2016.

Joe Carter, “9 things you should know about Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger,” The Gospel Coalition, October 18, 2016.

Zoe Dutton, “Abortion’s racial gap,” The Atlantic, September 22, 2014.

Steven Ertelt, “Planned Parenthood pushes bill making it illegal to record undercover footage like David Daleiden did,” LifeNews, May 27, 2016.

Mollie Hemingway, “Planned Parenthood sues to block info about baby part sales,” The Federalist, August 4, 2016.

Mollie Hemingway, “Media quiet about dismissed charges against Planned Parenthood whistleblowers,” The Federalist, August 4, 2016.

Abby Johnson, “For 100 years, Planned Parenthood has silenced millions of women, including me,” The Federalist, October 19, 2016.

Rachael Larimore, “The most meaningless abortion statistic ever,” Slate, May 7, 2013.

Carolyn Moynihan, “Planned Parenthood’s century and the wages of birth control,” MercatorNet, October 18, 2016.

Susan T. Muskett, “Margaret Sanger’s eugenics heyday in the federal government, The Public Discourse, February 5, 2016.

Holly Scheer, “Planned Parenthood celebrates 100 years of promoting death,” The Federalist, October 23, 2016.

Wesley J. Smith, “Erasing the truth about Planned Parenthood,” Evolution News and Views, May 9, 2016.

Wesley J. Smith, “Criminal prosecution as a cudgel against dissenters,” Evolution News and Views, July 26, 2016.

Rachel Marie Stone, “Contraception saves lives: Reconsidering Margaret Sanger as one who was opposed to abortion but emphatic about the personal and social good of contraception,” Christianity Today, March 11, 2015.

John Stonestreet, “Planned Parenthood silencing whistleblowers,” BreakPoint, September 3, 2016.

© 2016 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.

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