Part 2: The Racist Origins of Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood’s founder was impossible to please. 

Maria D.                                                            13 March 2021

This article will be referencing Margaret Sanger’s article, “Birth Control and Racial Betterment.” From the title you can probably get a feel for the vibe of her article. You can read her article here: 

The Public Papers of Margaret Sanger: Web Edition

The first part of this series can be read here:

Sanger begins her article: “Before eugenists and others who are laboring for racial betterment can succeed, they must first clear the way for Birth Control.”

She needs support from her fellow eugenists for the birth control concept to succeed, leading, she believes, to the betterment of the human race. As mentioned in the previous article, her definition of a good human is white, strong, intelligent, and wealthy. 

“Like the advocates of Birth Control, the eugenists, for instance, are seeking to assist the race toward the elimination of the unfit. Both are seeking a single end but they lay emphasis upon different methods.”

Here she says that eugenicists and birth control advocates have the same goal, just different methods. Does it scare anyone else that people like Margaret Sanger decided who was “fit” or “unfit”? Or the fact that she had no visible problem saying “elimination” about people? 

“Eugenists emphasize the mating of healthy couples for the conscious purpose of producing healthy children, the sterilization of the unfit to prevent their populating the world with their kind and they may, perhaps, agree with us that contraception is a necessary measure among the masses of the workers, where wages do not keep pace with the growth of the family and its necessities in the way of food, clothing, housing, medical attention, education and the like.” she says, and, “We who advocate Birth Control, on the other hand, lay all our emphasis upon stopping not only the reproduction of the unfit but upon stopping all reproduction when there is not economic means of providing proper care for those who are born in health.”

The statements above are classist. The classism belief is: a person’s wealth or social status determines their value. 

How do societies conclude one group is more fit than another? Aren’t we all created equally? Margaret Sanger wanted to eliminate the people she did not like. Imagine if everyone did that- they would not be able to for long, because eventually everyone would be gone. 

“One fundamental fact alone, however, indicates the necessity of Birth Control if eugenics is to accomplish its purpose.”

She wants birth control to be used to breed exclusively, between those she and other eugenicists believe are fit, saying birth control is a necessity to accomplish its goal. 

“Among the great majority of wage-workers, the frequent arrival of children means not only the wrecking of the mother’s health and the physical handicapping of the child, but often the disheartening and demoralization of the father, the stunting of the children through bad living conditions and early toil, and in that generation or the next, the contributing of morons, feeble-minded, insane and various criminal types to the already tremendous social burden constituted by these unfit.” 

By wage-workers, she means people who are not highly paid. She thinks people need to make a certain amount of money to qualify as parents- and she gets to determine what that amount is. She calls the offspring of wage-workers unfit and burdens to society. These workers are likely hard working, and will teach their children to be the same. A person can work at a gas station and be as fit for parenthood as a doctor. 

Also, living with less may teach people how to manage money better, which could lead to someone formerly deemed as “unfit” becoming financially “fit” for their offspring. People will not make the same career choices as their parents. If we said Margaret Sanger was right- that only “fit” people could reproduce- what happens when the “fit” people have “unfit” children? Will those descendants of the “fit” be forced to not reproduce? 

“While I personally believe in the sterilization of the feeble-minded, the insane and syphilitic, I have not been able to discover that these measures are more than superficial deterrents when applied to the constantly growing stream of the unfit.” 

In all honesty, I do not understand what that means. Is she saying that she would just think different traits of people made them “unfit” after elimination of nonwhites, poor, and others? I can see that she believes in making the “unfit” unable to reproduce, though, which is scary.

“ Neither the mating of healthy couples nor the sterilization of certain recognized types of the unfit touches the great problem of unlimited reproduction of those whose housing, clothing, and food are all inadequate to physical and mental health. These measures do not touch those great masses, who through economic pressure populate the slums and there produce in their helplessness other helpless, diseased and incompetent masses, who overwhelm all that eugenics can do among those whose economic condition is better.”

Even if all the people she liked reproduced together, the people living in places she looks down on would still continue to reproduce. Margaret Sanger, I believe, would never be satisfied if her wants were carried out. If the bottom 10% were eliminated, I think she would hate on the new bottom 10%, then the next bottom 10%. I think her dislike for people would continue. 

“Birth Control, on the other hand, not only opens the way to the eugenist, but it preserves his work.”

Margaret Sanger has no problem associating her cause with eugenics. After all, they have the same goal. 

Once again, this article is solely written to introduce who the founder of Planned Parenthood is through review of her articles. 


Sanger, Margaret. “Birth Control and Racial Betterment.” Birth Control and Racial Betterment, Feb. 1919. New York University,

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Part 2: The Racist Origins of Planned Parenthood

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