Why We Cannot Trust Planned Parenthood’s Decision to Disavow Margaret Sanger

On July 21st, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York announced its decision to rename their Manhattan facility to eliminate the name of their founder, Margaret Sanger. This decision was aimed to distance themselves from Sanger’s racist eugenicist ideologies. While it is great that Planned Parenthood has finally publicly admitted to the ideologies of their founder, there are legitimate questions we should ask before accepting their rejection of Sanger’s name. What will Planned Parenthood do to distance themselves from the legacy of Sanger beyond merely changing their name? Is Planned Parenthood genuine in disavowing their eugenicist founder? A simple name change will not necessarily change their facilities’ work and mission. If Planned Parenthood of Greater New York genuinely wants to distance themselves from the ideologies of their founder, Margaret Sanger, they are going to have to change a lot more than just their name.

Planned Parenthood of the Greater New York’s sudden decision to rename their Manhattan facility has come at a time in which cancel culture has taken a precedence in the United States. Planned Parenthood is an organization primarily favored by liberal leaning people who often times contribute to today’s cancel culture by supporting the tearing down statues and renaming schools dedicated to anyone who is remotely tied to racism or slavery. Due to the cancel culture, it was strategically prudent for Planned Parenthood to “cancel” their founder in order to help maintain their support system. Sanger’s racist eugenic ideologies have been challenged on multiple occasions, making her reputation a target for negative publicity. Therefore, it makes sense why Planned Parenthood of Greater New York publicly denounced Sanger and changed their name for the sake of their facility. However, by adhering to the cancel culture, Planned Parenthood of the Greater New York makes their motives suspicious. Did they change their name because they genuinely want to reckon with the ideologies of their founder, or did they change their name to remain popular with their supporters? 

In addition to strategic timing, Planned Parenthood’s decision to disavow Margaret Sanger is suspicious due to their history of defending Sanger from racist and eugenicist allegations. In 2016, Planned Parenthood released a document detailing “opposition claims about Margaret Sanger.” In this document, Planned Parenthood evaluated several claims against Margaret Sanger and refuted them by saying that the allegations were false or taken out of context. Within the document, they admitted that Margaret Sanger spoke to a Klu Klux Klan group saying, “it is true that Margaret Sanger made a speech on birth control to a women’s auxiliary branch of the Klu Klux Klan in Silver Lake, New Jersey, in 1926. Sanger’s passion led her to speak to any group interested in learning how to plan their reproduction. Planned Parenthood strongly disagrees with Sanger’s decision to address an organization that spreads hatred.” This statement is the only statement that acknowledges a genuinely racist act by Sanger, otherwise Planned Parenthood lauds Sanger as a faultless champion for women’s rights. However, in their statement about discarding Sanger’s name from the Manhattan facility, Karen Seltzer, a board member of Planned Parenthood of the Greater New York said, “Margaret Sanger’s concerns and advocacy for reproductive health have been clearly documented, but so too has her racist legacy. There is overwhelming evidence for Sanger’s deep belief in eugenic ideology, which runs completely counter to our values at PPGNY.” This statement clearly opposes Planned Parenthood’s 2016 document which defended her from being accused of racist and eugenic ideologies. So, what made the Manhattan Planned Parenthood change its mind and cause them to denounce their founder as a racist eugenicist after lauding her only four years earlier?

Along with their recent defense of Sanger, Planned Parenthood as an entire organization, has not denounced Sanger. In fact, they still laud her by offering the PPFA Margaret Sanger Award and deem it as their “highest honor.” I do not understand how Planned Parenthood of the Greater New York is planning on reckoning with their racist legacy without the support of the organization as a whole. 

In fact, according to Planned Parenthood of Greater New York’s press release, their goals to reckon with the legacy of Sanger are incredibly vague and do not include tangible routes of implementation.

How do they plan to reckon with their legacy? They cannot bring back the lives of the unborn who were aborted within their facilities. Currently, in New York, more black babies are aborted than born. According to an article published by the Wall Street Journal, in New York City, “Thousands more black babies are aborted than born alive each year.” In fact, 136,426 black babies are aborted in New York and 118,127 black babies are born in New York. Further, according to a 2010 US Census report, 79 percent of Planned Parenthoods are located in minority neighborhoods. This aids in causing a great disparity within races in the United States. What is Planned Parenthood doing to reckon with the current “reproductive harm within communities of color?” This is not a “historical” issue Planned Parenthood needs to reckon with, it is a current issue. In order to distance themselves from Sanger’s ideologies, they will need dismantle their organization so that it does not strategically target minority groups. This action, although it would be good, would severely harm their revenue. Especially if the majority of Planned Parenthood locations reside in minority neighborhoods. Unfortunately, I think it is highly unlikely they will implement change to that degree. Further, they will never be able to consistently value minority communities if they do not value the lives of minority people at all stages of life, so their five steps to make up for their racist founder will be inevitably unsuccessful. This will especially be the case if they do not have the support of their entire organization. 

While it may seem as though Planned Parenthood is taking a step to fix their racist legacy, it is important that we hold them to task. Before we believe their efforts are genuine, we must see a tangible change in their mission.