MercatorNet: The President needs a history lesson
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The President needs a history lesson

The President's fulsome praise of Planned Parenthood ignores its shameful origin in racist eugenics.
Robert R. Reilly | 30 April 2013
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In the spring of 1983, President Ronald Reagan did something highly unusual for a sitting president. He wrote and published an unsolicited article in The Human Life Review, titled “Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation.” In it, he denounced the “raw judicial power” by which the Supreme Court had dispossessed the unborn of their inalienable right to life in the Roe v. Wade decision, and mourned the some 15 million lives that had been snuffed out by abortion by that time.

On April 26, 2013, President Barack Obama did something equally extraordinary. He became the first president to address a Planned Parenthood conference. Planned Parenthood is the foremost provider of abortions in the United States. In his speech, Mr Obama celebrated the “quality healthcare to women” that this organization purportedly provides without once mentioning the service for which they are best known – abortion.

President Obama also lauded the organization for its near century of service since “the first health clinic of what later would become Planned Parenthood opened its doors to women in Brooklyn.” Curiously, he neglected to say much else about the origins of the group, except that “for nearly a century now, one core principle has guided everything all of you do – that women should be allowed to make their own decisions about their own health. It’s a simple principle.”

Actually, that’s not quite accurate. The real founding principle behind the group from which Planned Parenthood sprang was purely eugenicist, deriving from Charles Darwin’s “survival of the fittest.” Perhaps it is best to let founder Margaret Sanger (1883-1966) speak in her own words at length (so as to avoid their being taken out of context).

In Women and the New Race (1920), she wrote that

“Birth control itself, often denounced as a violation of natural law, is nothing more or less than the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit, of preventing the birth of defectives or of those who will become defectives. So, in compliance with nature’s working plan, we must permit womanhood its full development before we can expect of it efficient motherhood. If we are to make racial progress, this development of womanhood must precede motherhood in every individual woman. Then and then only can the mother cease to be an incubator and be a mother indeed. Then only can she transmit to her sons and daughters the qualities which make strong individuals and, collectively, a strong race.”

The purpose in promoting birth control, she added in the Birth Control Review, Nov. 1921, was “to create a race of thoroughbreds.” How can this be done? Among other things, she explained in Women and the New Race, “[We should] apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is tainted, or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring.”

The only way to do this was to have fewer children from the “unfit.” Who were the unfit? One can guess the answer from where Margaret Sanger placed her clinics – in poor neighborhoods. Who lived there? Blacks, East Europeans, and shanty Irish, among whom were my grandparents. The solution to poverty was to get rid of the poor. In case anyone missed the point, she said, “The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”

Of course, Mr Obama did not come from a large family, but one wonders from the circumstances of his birth what Margaret Sanger would have thought about bringing the unborn Obama to term? One can only be grateful that his mother did not consider herself part of a breeding program to create a “new race.” However, it is puzzling that he chose to celebrate a group whose origins are so explicitly steeped in eugenics.

This makes all the more remarkable the kind of criticism he leveled at the new restrictions recently placed on abortions by several states, including Kansas and North Dakota. President Obama said that “after decades of progress, there’s still those who want to turn back the clock to policies more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century.” But Planned Parenthood’s ideas turn back the clock far earlier than the 1950s. In fact, they go back almost a full century before that and have their genesis in Darwin’s work, the full title of which is On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. These ideas, with a little help from Frederick Nietzsche, reached their fruition in Nazi Germany.

That makes the 1950s look rather good. In fact, in comparison to today, 1950s America sported intact families, low crime rates, almost no pornography or drugs, and an extremely low divorce rate. Rather than denigrating it, Mr Obama should be celebrating these aspects of that fortunate decade. Of course, the 1950s did not allow what Mr Obama tells Planned Parenthood is “your right to choose.” This is the popular euphemism for abortion, employed by people who might otherwise squirm at Margaret Sanger’s admonition to “kill it.”

Therefore, the way Mr Obama disguises the issue is by cloaking it in the rhetoric of healthcare and human rights. He objects to “the government injecting [interjecting?] itself into decisions best made between a woman and her doctor.” Abraham Lincoln, whom Mr Obama purports to admire, would have had a good laugh at this. It is straight proslavery language. It would be like objecting in the 1850s to the government interjecting itself between a man and his slave. After all, it’s his property, just as the Dred Scott decision said. After all, it’s not a “person,” as Roe v. Wade said. However, if the government can’t protect innocent human life, what can it do?

Well, it can provide free contraceptives. Thanks to Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, the president said, “most insurance plans are now covering the cost of contraceptive care, so that a working mom doesn’t have to put off the care she needs just so she can pay her bills on time.” What could he possibly be talking about? Without insurance, one month's worth of generic oral contraceptives costs around $9. For this, we have a government?

President Obama, Margaret Sanger would be proud of you. Abraham Lincoln would not.

Robert R. Reilly was a special assistant to President Ronald Reagan and served as his liaison to the pro-life movement. He is completing a book forthcoming from Ignatius Press on the natural law argument against same-sex marriage.

MORE ON THESE TOPICS | abortion, Barack Obama, Planned Parenthood
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