Planned Parenthood's Excuse for (Margaret Sanger's Speech to) the Ku Klux Klan
Last fall, in the wake of the renewed national debate on race, black and Latina employees of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York demanded that the abortion organization review its racist history and some of its current practices. The chapter did so, and afterwards decided to delete Margaret Sanger's name from its flagship abortion clinic, and it even went so far as to state that Sanger, Planned Parenthood's founder, was a racist. After articles in The Hill, BuzzFeed News, and other outlets revealed present-day bigotry in other Planned Parenthood chapters, PP's leaders promised to address the concerns expressed by its black and Latina employees.1 And just this past April, PP deleted its entire 20-page biographical profile of Sanger from its website.
But was Planned Parenthood's canceling of its founder a sincere attempt to reckon with the abortion industry's history of racial bigotry, or was it merely a metaphorical firewall to deflect attention from the more substantive harm reflected in that troubling history?
The recently deleted profile of Sanger acknowledged that she spoke to a women's auxiliary of the Ku Klux Klan in 1926. Then came this statement:
NOTE: In the 1920's, the KKK was a mainstream movement and was considered a legitimate anti-immigration organization with a wide membership that included many state and local officials. At that time, it defined its enemies as Blacks, Catholics, and Jews. Planned Parenthood today denounces Sanger's address to the Ku Klux Klan.2
In this era, when so many apologies for violations of politically correct taboos are judged insufficient, the hidden-in-plain-sight offenses of PP's "Note" have stood for over four years, apparently unseen by the eyes of even the most woke of leftists.
The fact sheet containing the Note went up in October 2016, when Planned Parenthood was apparently so confident that its endorsed candidate would become America's first woman president that it felt free to describe the KKK, the worst terrorist group in our nation's history, with tepid words.
Did the Note's attempt to apologize for PP's founder somehow end up apologizing for the KKK? Note the absence of any words condemning the Klan. Nowhere do we see such appropriate words as "terrorists," "murderers," or "bigots" applied to it. Instead, according to Planned Parenthood, the Klan that Sanger addressed was "mainstream" and "legitimate"; an "organization" that merely "defined as enemies"—not murdered—blacks, Jews, Catholics, and immigrants.
Of all the excuse-making words, "mainstream" may be the trickiest. PP's Note echoes the conventional narrative that the Ku Klux Klan was a powerful and popular group in the 1920s. This was true . . . in the early 1920s. But in 1925, the KKK's Grand Dragon of the North was arrested and tried for rape and murder. By the time he was convicted, on November 14 of that year, Klan membership, especially in the northern states, was nosediving. The numerous state and local officials who had previously boasted openly of their Klan membership were now scurrying away like rats off a sinking ship.
So when Sanger visited and spoke to the women's auxiliary in May 1926, the Klan was past its prime, especially in New Jersey. Indeed, three years earlier, on May 2, 1923, Klan members in Bound Brook, New Jersey, received a taste of their own poison when a mob routed them. Later that summer, other mobs crushed Klan members at nearby Plainfield and Perth Amboy.3 By 1926, national scandals and local defeats had crippled the New Jersey Klan and left it with a much smaller audience to hear Sanger's message. But apparently not a less appealing audience.
Another bizarre excuse in the Note is its description of the KKK as "a legitimate anti-immigration organization."
Today, many of Planned Parenthood's political and media allies label even modest border-security measures as xenophobic. But merely calling the KKK "anti-immigration" understates its terrorism and dehumanizes its many victims. The Klan was not so much against immigration policy as it was against immigrant people, especially those from southern and eastern Europe, whom it terrorized and murdered. With its almost genteel description of Klan xenophobia, Planned Parenthood implicitly denies the personhood of the KKK's immigrant victims.
The Note then says that the KKK "defined its enemies as Blacks, Catholics, Jews and others." The Klan did much worse than "define" blacks, Catholics, Jews, and immigrants as enemies; it terrorized and murdered them, again rendering their victims' sufferings and personhood unimportant.
But should anyone really be surprised that an organization that explicitly denies the personhood of unborn babies would implicitly deny it to other humans?
The Note concludes with a soggy, "PP today denounces Sanger's address to the Ku Klux Klan." How in tune with the rest of its "mainstream" apology.
Still, that self-important yet feckless denunciation prompts a question: What did Sanger say that finally earned a reprimand from her organization so long after she died? What did she say on that May night illumined by burning crosses that—as she later wrote—"accomplished my purpose" and gained her "a dozen invitations to speak to similar groups" (emphasis added)? What did she say on a night she described as "mystical" that inspired the Klanswomen to speak with her "on and on" into the night?4
Did she promise that her movement would come to focus its efforts on the black community? Did she hint at things so sinister they would eventually lead to charges of racism against Planned Parenthood from the black and Latina women in its employ? Did she even suggest something that, ironically, would lead to abortion advocates' repeatedly and irrationally leveling charges of racism against pro-lifers?
Tip of an Iceberg
Sanger's speech and PP's quasi-apologetic Note are actually just the tip of a white supremacist iceberg that lies beneath the surface of abortion advocacy. Evidence of this can be found throughout the abortion industry and its supporting "culture."
In 2013, when Kermit Gosnell, a black abortionist since pre-Roe days, faced prosecution for infanticide and other crimes committed at his Philadelphia clinic over the course of many years, the pro-choice side abandoned its loyal black servant even before his case went to trial. That same year, when white abortionist Douglas Karpen was investigated for similar crimes in Texas, the abortion industry successfully rallied around him. Gosnell was convicted and is now serving a life sentence plus 30 years for his crimes; a grand jury declined to indict Karpen in 2013, and although the FBI reportedly reopened his investigation in 2018, he has yet to be brought to trial.5
And consider what might truly be called cultural appropriation by the white atheist and abortion enthusiast Gloria Steinem with respect to the legacy of the black civil rights heroine Fannie Lou Hamer (1917–1977). Steinem contributed a chapter on Hamer to the 2002 book Invisible Giants: Fifty Americans Who Shaped the Nation but Missed the History Books. In her essay, she cynically claims Hamer for the pro-choice side because this cheerful and courageous Christian woman—who, among other things, suffered brutal beatings at the hands of Mississippi sheriff's deputies—complained bitterly about her state-imposed hysterectomy. Steinem mutes the fact that Hamer was angry about losing her right to have children, not abortions.6 About abortion itself, the characteristically straightforward Hamer called it "legal murder."7
Pro-lifers have often called attention to the disproportionate number of abortions committed on black women. Just last December, black Christian clergy did so in an open letter to Rafael Warnock, then a Democratic senatorial candidate from Georgia.8 Warnock won the seat but has not yet revised his strong support for abortion "rights."
Planned Parenthood also supported the Communist Chinese government's long-standing one-child policy (revised somewhat in recent years), which forced abortion on almost all Chinese women who had a second pregnancy.9 Here, Planned Parenthood not only displayed bigotry against the Chinese, but also, ironically, supported the world's most far-reaching anti-choice policy.
In the months since it was forced to deal with the accusations of its black and Latina employees, has Planned Parenthood shown any signs of truly facing up to its racism? Or were changing the name of its New York abortion clinic and scrubbing its website profile of Sanger mere exercises in virtue-signaling? The latter would appear to be the case, as the organization continues to be the leader of an industry that profits off the bodies of women, girls, and pre-born children of all colors. That iceberg which wrecks lives in the present will not be melted by a few virtue signals regarding its past.
1. Celine Castronuovo, "Planned Parenthood president says group faces 'reckoning' on racism," The Hill (Oct. 10, 2020): https://thehill.com/homenews/news/520485-planned-parenthood-president-says-group-faces-reckoning-on-racism; Ema O'Connor, "Dozens of Black Employees Said They Faced Racism at Planned Parenthood, An Internal Audit Found," BuzzFeed News (Oct. 9, 2020): www.buzzfeednews.com/article/emaoconnor/black-employees-planned-parenthood-racism; Kim Kelly, "Pro-Woman, Anti-Worker," The Baffler (Oct. 12, 2020): thebaffler.com/latest/pro-woman-anti-worker-kelly.
2. www.plannedparenthood.org/files/9214/7612/8734/Sanger_Fact_Sheet_Oct_2016.pdf (page 6)—deleted in April 2021.
3. Mike Deak, "History Lessons: The KKK met its match in Central Jersey," Courier News and Home News Tribune (Aug. 24, 2017): mycentraljersey.com/story/news/history/new-jersey/2017/08/24/kkk-central-jersey-perth-amboy-bound-brook/588343001.
4. Margaret Sanger, An Autobiography (1938; reprint, Dover Publications, 1971), 366–367.
5. Helen Pow, "Second 'house of horrors' abortion clinic where doctor 'twisted heads off fetus' necks with his bare hands' is investigated in Texas," Daily Mail (May 16, 2013): dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2325786/Douglas-Karpen-Second-house-horrors-abortion-clinic-investigated-Texas.html; Chris Fields, "Case of abortionist accused for years of killing born-alive babies now in the hands of the FBI," The Blaze (May 22, 2018): theblaze.com/news/2018/05/22/case-of-abortionist-accused-for-years-of-killing-live-babies-now-in-the-hands-of-the-fbi.
6. Gloria Steinem, "Fannie Lou Hamer," in Invisible Giants: Fifty Americans Who Shaped the Nation but Missed the History Books (Oxford Univ. Press, 2002), 133.
7.Charles Marsh, God's Long Summer: Stories of Faith and Civil Rights (Princeton Univ. Press 1997), 196.
8. Shelia Poole, "Black ministers urge Warnock to change abortion rights stance," Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Dec. 11, 2020): ajc.com/news/black-ministers-send-open-letter-to-warnock-asking-him-to-change-pro-choice-stance/LWFRQI5AEFHW3KNCNMJZMGF7TY.
9. Nathaniel Whelan, "10 Little Known Facts About China's One Child Policy" World Atlas (May 12, 2020): worldatlas.com/articles/10-little-known-facts-about-china-s-one-child-policy.html; "International Planned Parenthood Federation Supports China's One-Child Policy" (June 27, 2011): texasrighttolifepac.com/International-Planned-Parenthood-Federation-supports-China-s-one-child-policy.
Howard Isaac Williams is an Orthodox Christian who is semi-retired from the messenger and pest control industries. He is the grandson of immigrants whose neighborhoods were harassed by the Ku Klux Klan.Get Salvo in your inbox! This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #57, Summer 2021 Copyright © 2023 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/article/salvo57/fact-sheets