On Saturday, the President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Alexis McGill Johnson, wrote a conciliatory op-ed in the New York Times that was a reckoning of sorts with the legacy of their founder, Margaret Sanger.
The headline of Johnson’s piece read, “I’m the head of Planned Parenthood. I’m tired of making excuses for our founder.” The subtitle continued, “We must reckon with Margaret Sanger’s association with white supremacist groups and eugenics.”
Now, Planned Parenthood is ready to acknowledge, and in their words, “reckon with” Sanger’s questionable legacy.
For as long as I’ve been involved at Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger’s legacy on race has been an open question.
What people want to know is: Was she or was she not a racist?
And we’ve answered every question but that one. https://t.co/KSwSci69fw
— Alexis McGill Johnson (@alexismcgill) April 18, 2021
Owning Up To Sanger’s History
McGill Johnson makes no bones about the fact that Sanger “remains an influential part of our history and will not be erased.”
McGill Johnson also says that, “We don’t know what was in Sanger’s heart, and we don’t need to in order to condemn her harmful choices.” She continued, “whether our founder was a racist is not a simple yes or no question.”
By her own admission, McGill Johnson states that Margaret Sanger addressed the Women’s Auxiliary of the Ku Klux Klan in 1926.
Also according to McGill Johnson, Sanger supported the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Buck vs. Bell, which allowed states to sterilize people deemed “unfit” without their consent or knowledge.
Planned Parenthood, while not erasing Sanger, says the first step in their reckoning is “making Margaret Sanger less prominent in our present and future.”
To that end, they’ve removed Sanger’s name from awards and buildings.
So how does Planned Parenthood look to further reconcile with the legacy of Sanger? McGill Johnson’s answer:
“By privileging whiteness, we’ve contributed to America harming Black women and other women of color. And when we focus too narrowly on “women’s health,” we have excluded trans and nonbinary people.”
Other promises are much in the vein of the language you see proliferating everywhere among the left today:
We pledge to fight the many types of dehumanization we are seeing right now: the dehumanization of Black and Latino victims of police violence such as Adam Toledo, Daunte Wright, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and too many others. The dehumanization of transgender people whose health care and rights are being denied in states across the country, and who face attacks not just from the right but also from trans-exclusionary radical “feminists.”
Margaret Sanger harmed generations with her beliefs. In our second century, Planned Parenthood has a chance to heal those harms. Reckoning with Margaret Sanger is one thing. We need to reckon with ourselves.
— Alexis McGill Johnson (@alexismcgill) April 18, 2021
Black Pro-Life Leaders Are Having None Of It
Several black pro-life leaders have responded to McGill Johnson’s Op-ed, calling it “hollow.”
Human Coalition Vice President Benjamin Watson, the former NFL tight end, stated,
“Whether they personally identify with Sanger’s ideology or not, they continue to carry out her mission, by serving as the leading executioner of our children. The same Sanger they claim to disavow would applaud their efforts and results, as a disproportionate percentage of Black children have been killed in Planned Parenthood’s abortion clinics.”
“Acknowledging a racist history does not absolve them of the blood on their hands, as they continue to take full advantage of victims of the racism they decry,”
Dr. Deborah Honeycutt, board chair of Human Coalition Action, did not hold back in her rejection of McGill Johnson’s apology.
“Planned Parenthood has contributed to the harm of women of color for decades.” She said that McGill Johnson’s “so called ‘reckoning’ does nothing to change that truth.”
“They have failed to confront the white supremacy within its organization, as they continue to aggressively prey on Black and brown communities with abortion. Destroying human life contributes to a culture of death and injustice, and Planned Parenthood will always be known for killing a generation of minorities, just as Margaret Sanger dreamed that it would.”
Human Coalition vice president Benjamin Watson speaks up https://t.co/RLiBtXfGp0
— Joe McKinley (@bartmckinley) April 19, 2021
McGill Johnson continued in her op-ed saying that, while Sanger’s history does not negate her fight for women’s rights, it does tarnish it.
Ultimately, McGill Johnson and Planned Parenthood have to reckon with the fact that Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood are forever tied together.
Margaret Sanger’s beliefs caused irreparable damage to the lives and health of generations of Black people, Latino people, Indigenous people, immigrants, people with disabilities, people with low incomes, and many others. Read more from @alexismcgill: https://t.co/zc7Q6UY1mc pic.twitter.com/LrAy1lGYuX
— Planned Parenthood (@PPFA) April 18, 2021
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Author: Becky Noble
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