Planned Parenthood of Greater New York is removing the name of Margaret Sanger, the founder of the nation’s largest abortion provider, from its New York City clinic due to her “harmful connection to the eugenics movement,” the group said Tuesday.
The announcement comes after more than 350 current and former staffers at the Manhattan clinic, as well as 800 donors, supporters and volunteers, called Sanger “a racist, white woman.” An open letter on June 18 to Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, criticized the organization as “steeped in white supremacy,” the Washington Times reports.
For decades, pro-life activists pointed out Sanger’s racism, but in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, Planned Parenthood said it is addressing the problem.
“The removal of Margaret Sanger’s name from our building is both a necessary and overdue step to reckon with our legacy and acknowledge Planned Parenthood’s contributions to historical reproductive harm within communities of color,” Karen Seltzer, the chair of the New York affiliate’s board, said in a statement.
Margaret Sanger, shown in a 1959 photo, founder of the birth control movement in the United States, died in a nursing home Sept. 6, 1966, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America announced. She was 83 years old.
The New York clinic is now asking city leaders to remove Sanger’s name from local streets as well, the New York Times reports. It will now be called the Manhattan Health Center.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the national organization, said it supported the New York chapter’s decision.
“Planned Parenthood, like many other organizations that have existed for a century or more, is reckoning with our history, and working to address historical inequities to better serve patients and our mission,” Melanie Roussell Newman, a spokeswoman for the group, said in the statement.
The New York clinic’s president and CEO, Laura McQuade stepped down June 23 after the open letter accused her of abusive behavior and unfair treatment of Black staff members.
The national organization has defended Sanger in the past, claiming she was well-intentioned in her outreach to Black communities.
The Manhattan Planned Parenthood clinic changed its name and disavowed founder Margaret Sanger for her racist eugenics.
Sanger launched the Negro Project, in 1939, which was aimed at “helping Negroes to control their birthrate,” while advocating for a federal “population bureau” to police reproduction. She worked with Black leaders like W.E.B DuBois and Mary McLeod Bethune, but also addressed the women’s auxiliary of the Ku Klux Klan in 1926. Planned Parenthood stated it strongly disagrees with Sanger’s decision to speak to an organization that spreads hatred. The national Planned Parenthood group also criticized Sanger’s support for policies to sterilize people with disabilities that could not be treated, and for “placing so-called illiterates, paupers, unemployables, criminals, prostitutes and dope fiends on farms and in open spaces as long as necessary for the strengthening and development of moral conduct,” the group said in a 2016 fact sheet.
Rev. Dean Nelson, the executive director of Human Coalition Action and an African American minister, told Fox News in a statement that the decision is “long overdue” and said more action is needed.
“You cannot acknowledge the racist person and history without admitting to the racist vision that has resulted in nearly 80 percent of Planned Parenthood’s surgical abortion facilities being located within walking distance of Black neighborhoods,” Nelson said.
“This is the fulfillment of Margaret Sanger’s vision. It is unconscionable that the taxes of Americans go to an organization with racist founding and mission. There’s no redeeming Planned Parenthood’s tainted origins and current-day racist practices, and I call on Congress to follow Planned Parenthood of Greater New York’s lead and fully defund Planned Parenthood.”
The decision also comes as the anti-abortion Students for Life of America organization is launching an “S.O.S. Strike Out Sanger” campaign Tuesday calling for the removal of Sanger’s statues and symbols wherever they are.
“Margaret Sanger’s racist legacy continues to be at work in America, as seen in Planned Parenthood’s business model,” Students for Life of America’s President Kristan Hawkins said in a statement to Fox News. “But whether in the Smithsonian, Manhattan, or the Old South Meeting House on the Freedom Trail, Margaret Sanger’s tributes need to be taken down and stored away because her desire to ensure that black babies would not be born doesn’t deserve honor.”
SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser took it a step further, calling on Planned Parenthood to “immediately publish its historical abortion data by race given indications they have skewed the placement of abortion facilities and actively target minority communities,” and “drop its fierce opposition to anti-discrimination laws that protect unborn children from being selected for abortion due to their race, sex, or disability.”
Dannenfelser added, “We further call on Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton to disavow and return their Planned Parenthood Margaret Sanger awards immediately.”