A commenter in the comboxes believes Margaret Sanger to be misunderstood, and that we would all do well to follow the lead of her disciples at New York University.
Sanger really starts fidgeting, ducking and weaving, telling lies and conveniently forgetting in the second half of the interview.
She outright lies in the first half, when speaking of the opposition of the Christian Churches to Birth Control in the beginning of her movement.
“At that time (1920’s) there was no opposition as far as the Church was concerned- any Church. It was mainly the law-federal law and state laws that one had to think of.”
In reality, all mainline churches opposed contraception until the Anglicans broke with tradition at the Lambeth Conference of 1930. Only then did others follow suit.
Surely Sanger must have remembered how Pope Pius XI wrote the famous Encyclical Castii Connubii (On Christian Marriage) four months after the Lambeth Conference of 1930, wherein he states that the teaching against contraception was “uninterrupted Christian tradition” (see paragraph 56 in the document).
After watching Sanger’s sanitized, Disney version of her motives for pushing birth control, consider what she didn’t say:
“Our failure to segregate morons who are increasing and multiplying
… demonstrates our foolhardy and extravagant sentimentalism …
[Philanthropists] encourage the healthier and more normal sections of the
world to shoulder the burden of unthinking and indiscriminate fecundity of
others; which brings with it, as I think the reader must agree, a dead
weight of human waste. Instead of decreasing and aiming to eliminate the
stocks that are most detrimental to the future of the race and the world,
it tends to render them to a menacing degree dominant … We are paying
for, and even submitting to, the dictates of an ever-increasing,
unceasingly spawning class of human beings who never should have been born
“Today eugenics is suggested by the most diverse minds as the most
adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political and
“I think you must agree … that the campaign for birth control is not
merely of eugenic value, but is practically identical with the final aims
of eugenics … Birth control propaganda is thus the entering wedge for the
“As an advocate of birth control I wish … to point out that the
unbalance between the birth rate of the ‘unfit’ and the ‘fit,’ admittedly
the greatest present menace to civilization, can never be rectified by the
inauguration of a cradle competition between these two classes. In this
matter, the example of the inferior classes, the fertility of the feeble-
minded, the mentally defective, the poverty-stricken classes, should not be
held up for emulation.
“On the contrary, the most urgent problem today is how to limit and
discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective.”
— Margaret Sanger. “The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda.”
Birth Control Review , October 1921, page 5.
“The third group [of society] are those irresponsible and reckless
ones having little regard for the consequences of their acts, or whose
religious scruples prevent their exercising control over their numbers.
Many of this group are diseased, feeble-minded, and are of the pauper
element dependent upon the normal and fit members of society for their
support. There is no doubt in the minds of all thinking people that the
procreation of this group should be stopped.”
— Margaret Sanger. Speech quoted in Birth Control: What It Is, How It
Works, What It Will Do. The Proceedings of the First American Birth
Control Conference . Held at the Hotel Plaza, New York City, November 11-
12, 1921. Published by the Birth Control Review , Gothic Press, pages 172
“In passing, we should here recognize the difficulties presented by the
idea of ‘fit’ and ‘unfit.’ Who is to decide this question? The grosser,
the more obvious, the undeniably feeble-minded should, indeed, not only be
discouraged but prevented from propagating their kind. But among the
writings of the representative Eugenists [sic], one cannot ignore the
distinct middle-class bias that prevails.”
— Margaret Sanger, quoted in Charles Valenza. “Was Margaret Sanger a
Racist?” Family Planning Perspectives , January-February 1985, page 44.
In fairness to Sanger, Idiot, Imbicile, and Moron were medical diagnostic categories in their day. Also to be fair to Sanger, she dripped with contempt for these people. She had no appreciation for their humanity, and in her hardened heart, could not imagine that the poor might enjoy meaning in the midst of poverty. Nor could she imagine that the children of the poor might rise above the poverty. My parents grew up in tenements in grinding poverty during the great depression. I lived in those same tenements until age 13. Of five children in my family four went to college and graduate school. All live lives of productive contribution to society.
But even the most handicapped among us has great individual value and moral worth. In the most bitter of ironies, it was Margaret Sanger herself who added to societal misery on the same scale she imagined it in other quarters. If as she suggested the handicapped had little to offer, it is all the more certain that Sanger wasted much. A terrible epitaph.