Politics & Policy

What Ben Carson Knows about Planned Parenthood

Margaret Sanger in 1925 (Getty Images)

It’s an irony surely lost on the Black Lives Matter crowd that whatever the perils of life in Democrat-controlled cities, nowhere is as dangerous to black Americans as the womb.

That is not a matter of chance, as Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson noted Wednesday on Fox News: “I know who Margaret Sanger is,” Carson told host Neil Cavuto, referring to the founder of Planned Parenthood, “and I know that she believed in eugenics, and that she was not particularly enamored with black people. And one of the reasons that you find most of their clinics in black neighborhoods is so that you can find a way to control that population.” He encouraged viewers to read up on Sanger (about whom, he noted, Hillary Clinton has gushed). To that end, the best resource is Sanger herself.

In her 1922 book The Pivot of Civilization, Sanger wrote:

The lack of balance between the birth-rate of the “unfit” and the “fit” [is] admittedly the greatest present menace to the civilization. . . . The example of the inferior classes, the fertility of the feeble-minded, the mentally defective, the poverty-stricken, should not be held up for emulation to the mentally and physically fit, and therefore less fertile, parents of the educated and well-to-do classes. On the contrary, the most urgent problem to-day is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective.

While Sanger spent her 50-year birth-control crusade touting “reproductive freedom” and women’s “liberation,” those goals were inextricable, to her mind, from population control. And so Sanger devoted much of her career to stopping the “inferior classes,” the “mentally defective,” the “poverty-stricken” et al. from reproducing — or, as she called it, “reckless breeding.” Sanger again:

Modern studies indicate that insanity, epilepsy, criminality, prostitution, pauperism, and mental defect, are all organically bound up together and that the least intelligent and the thoroughly degenerate classes in every community are the most prolific. Feeble-mindedness in one generation becomes pauperism or insanity in the next. There is every indication that feeble-mindedness in its protean forms is on the increase, that it has leaped the barriers, and that there is truly, as some of the scientific eugenists [sic] have pointed out, a feeble-minded peril to future generations – unless the feeble-minded are prevented from reproducing their kind. To meet this emergency is the immediate and peremptory duty of every State and of all communities.

Sanger’s devotion to the “science” of her day provided her a purportedly empirical basis on which to establish a hierarchy of desirable persons.  Predictably, in 1939, allied with prominent black ministers and community leaders, Sanger commenced her “Negro Project” to promote birth control among blacks. “The mass of significant Negroes still breed carelessly and disastrously,” wrote Sanger’s Birth Control Federation, “with the result that the increase among Negroes . . . is [in] that portion of the population least intelligent and fit.”

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An influential colleague in this project, and Sanger’s close friend, was Lothrop Stoddard, whose book The Rising Tide of Color against White World Supremacy became a gospel of the eugenics movement: “Finally perish!” he writes in one place. “That is the exact alternative that confronts the white race. . . . If white civilization goes down, the white race is irretrievably ruined. It will be swamped by the triumphant colored races, who will eliminate the white man by elimination or absorption. . . . We now know that men are not and never will be equal.” As for solutions: “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.” Stoddard’s book was published in 1920. Six years later, in Silver Lake, N.J., Sanger delivered a speech at a Ku Klux Klan rally. And, adding to her discredit, it should come as no surprise that Sanger was complimentary toward Nazi eugenics, and Nazi leaders were complimentary toward Sanger.

This may be history — but the abortion industry, intentionally or not, has carried on Sanger’s troubling legacy. Why is it that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, black women are five times likelier than white women to have an abortion?

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Perhaps it has something to do with the placement of abortion clinics. In 2011 the pro-life organization Life Dynamics analyzed the zip codes of every abortion or abortion-referral facility in the United States. They noticed that these facilities were overwhelmingly located in zip codes with minority populations well above the state average. Consider Texas, which in 2011 had 94 such facilities: 72 were located in zip codes with disproportionate black and/or Hispanic populations. Or take the zip codes of Kentucky’s two facilities: In one, the Hispanic population was 166.6 percent of the state average; in the other, the black population was 915 percent.

“There is not one state in the union without population control centers located in ZIP codes with higher percentages of blacks and/or Hispanics than the state’s overall percentage,” the study’s authors noted. And, they added:

We identified 116 ZIP codes with more than one population control facility. Of those, 84 were disproportionately black and/or Hispanic. What this means is that, when the American family planning industry places multiple facilities in a ZIP code, that ZIP code is more than two-and-a-half times as likely to be disproportionately minority as not.

Critics of these findings suggest that abortion providers are simply going where the need is — low-income, which are typically minority-dominant, areas. But abortion advocates also claim that promoting birth control in these areas helps to reduce abortions and unplanned pregnancies. And that has not happened. In 2011, the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute published the findings of a study comparing rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion in 1994 and 2006. Among women with incomes below the federal poverty line, the unintended pregnancy rate rose by 50 percent. They also experienced an increase in abortions. Women with incomes at or above 200 percent of the poverty line saw decreases in both of these categories. Conclusion: The results were exactly the opposite of what abortion providers claimed was the goal.

#related#Cause and effect are not straightforward here, to be fair. But these providers surely have created some of those customers by providing ready access to cheap birth control — and, ultimately, abortion — thereby promoting riskier sexual behavior.

The exact causal relations aside, though, what the data make clear is that Margaret Sanger’s project continues in a new form. Cecile Richards is not Lothrop Stoddard, fearing the contamination of the superior Aryan race. But Planned Parenthood has focused its efforts in in minority neighborhoods, despite those efforts’ deleterious outcomes (according to Planned Parenthood’s own standards).

Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested there are “populations that we don’t want to have too many of.” If you want to know which populations she’s thinking of, perhaps you should look for the local Planned Parenthood clinic.

— Ian Tuttle is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute.


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