Kanye West’s recent bombshell interview with Forbes magazine, in which he announced a presidential bid, turned his back on President Trump and criticized Joe Biden, also reignited an old debate about the abortion industry’s controversial roots in the Black community.
West seemed to hold nothing back in the interview and, at one point, singled out Planned Parenthood, which he said has “been placed inside cities by White supremacists to do the Devil’s work.” The comment was a clear reference to Planned Parenthood’s founder Margaret Sanger, whose support for eugenics and racially charged statements in a 1939 letter remain a source of pain for many in the Black community.
“How are we to breed a race of human thoroughbreds unless we follow the same plan?” Sanger wrote in 1924. “We must make this country into a garden of children instead of a disorderly back lot overrun with human weeds.”
Eugenics is a long-discredited belief that humans can be bred for superiority by excluding those deemed inferior. Nazi Germany used the theory to justify its treatment of Jews, the disabled and other minority groups.
(Bust of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger in the National Portrait Gallery)
Rebecca Tuhus Dubrow, an author, wrote in The Nation back in 2007, “Harder to dismiss are the critiques of Black feminists like Angela Davis, who points out that minority women’s longstanding alienation from mainstream White feminism has roots in Sanger’s association with eugenics.”
In the 1939 letter, Sanger outlined her plan to encourage Black religious leaders to help her counter suspicions as she expanded her clinics into the South.
“We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members,” she wrote.
But in the same letter, Sanger urged her correspondent to support hiring Black doctors to work in the clinics she was trying to open across the rural South.
High-profile Black Republicans have long criticized Planned Parenthood, including Ben Carson, the U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Herman Cain, the former GOP presidential candidate; and Allen West, the retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and House representative. West himself said in the Forbes interview that he would run as a Republican if not for Trump.
Arizona Rep. Walt Blackman, a Republican, recently wrote an op-ed titled “Abortion: The Overlooked Tragedy for Black Americans.” He pointed to recent statistics and said it is “harmful to all Black Americans if we continue to let society look the other way when it comes to the devastation that political policies like abortion wreak on the Black community.”
Although most Democrats support abortion rights, Louisiana State Sen. Katrina Jackson, a Democrat, has emerged as a vocal advocate against abortion. She called the procedure a “modern-day genocide,” according to The Advocate.
“We will never stop; it’s just that important,” she reportedly said at this year’s March for Life in Washington. “It’s the most important thing we could ever fight for in our lives.”
An estimated 61.6 million abortions have been performed in the U.S. since the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, with nearly 20 million abortions of unborn Black babies. The Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, reported that Black women made up 28 percent of the country’s abortions in 2014, despite the fact that Blacks make up about 13 percent of the country’s population. Blackman, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wrote that Black women in 2011 had the highest ratio of any group in the country at 474 abortions per 1,000 live births.
Planned Parenthood has had some recent race-related controversies. Its Greater New York’s top executive, Laura McQuade, resigned from her job last month following complaints against her alleged mistreatment of Black staff members, the The New York Times reported.
Hundreds of current and former staffers, as well as other supporters, signed an open letter blasting Sanger, the founder, as a “racist” and arguing that the nonprofit suffered from “institutional racism.”
Planned Parenthood named Alexis McGill Johnson its president and CEO in late June. She had previously been the organization’s acting president. According to the Daily Beast, she is the organization’s second Black president.
“Seventy-seven percent of Americans believe that Roe should be the law of the land, but a vocal minority controls the levers of power,” she told Bustle in June. “Planned Parenthood is first and foremost a health care provider, but we also have to defend the health care we provide.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.