Because ideas have consequences, it matters what a leader believes. This is true in general, but it is also true with the mother of abortion in America, Margaret Sanger.
Over the last week, I read the book Killer Angel: A Biography of Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger by Presbyterian pastor George Grant. The book, commended by R.C. Sproul and Michael Milton, uncovers the dark life of Margaret Sanger. In Grant’s book, he exposes many of the underlying ideologies which fueled Sanger. To understand what drove her and what still drives her disciples, its vital to know her story, and Grant’s book is excellent. (Here’s my summary of it).
In what follows, I want to make four summary observations from Sanger’s life and legacy that show how her views of sex, culture, eugenics, and money led her to start an organization that continues to prey upon the most vulnerable in our country. My prayer is that by knowing more of her story it will help us to be better equipped to expose Planned Parenthood’s lies and bring hope to those who women targeted by their organization.
Four Ideas in Margaret Sanger’s Life
1. Margaret Sanger’s passion for sexual liberation fueled her public works.
Most who know Margaret Sanger know her activism for birth control and abortion. What people may not know is the way her public activism only extended her personal sexual immorality and infidelity. As her life story goes, after leaving her first husband she had affairs with countless men. Thus, she did far more than champion sexual liberation; she also indulged heavily.
While young and strong, she had many famous and influential partners. Later in life, her passion for sex led her other highs—drugs, alcohol, and the occult. But in the end, her sexual encounters could not secure her happiness or save her from death.
Indeed, God did not create sex to be an end in itself. While sex creates physical life–the very thing Sanger sought to control and delimit—sex cannot give meaning, purpose, or eternal life. Sadly, as an evangelists for sex without consequences, Sanger never experienced how God’s good gift is designed to lead his creatures back to the Creator. Instead, her illicit views of sexuality have led generations of women away from God, even as her own uncontrolled passions raged against the Lord.
2. Sanger’s radical ideas informed her rationale for starting birth control clinics.
Long before she started her first birth control clinic, Sanger ran with leading anarchists, Socialists, and other radicals. In fact, in her activism we find a fusion of anti-theism, Marxism, sexual liberation, eugenics, and racism. Though Sanger, who fled from the law in 1915, changed her public persona, she never recanted of her earlier views. Rather, Planned Parenthood has airbrushed Sanger’s history, just as Sanger rebranded herself as a champion for the poor.
Today, Sanger is still revered by the leaders of Planned Parenthood, while the darker aspects of her life and thought are hidden, forgotten, or explained away. Such is not God’s perspective on history, however. In his light, all darkness is eventually exposed. This, we know, will be true on the last day. But it is also true, that we must shine light on falsehood today, as well. In the places where Sanger’s ideology goes unchallenged and Planned Parenthood preys on women, we must provide better means of care and truth to unshackle women bound in abortion’s unjust web.
3. Sanger’s pursuit of birth control was fueled by eugenics.
For the first two decades of her work on birth control (approx. 1916–1936), Sanger publicly and vociferously argued for eugenics and the need to keep the uneducated and impoverished from reproducing. While sex education motivated her earlier efforts with birth control; later, after spending a year in exile in England with neo-Malthusians, it was the purification of the human race that drove her.
After World War II, when Americans rejected eugenics because of its role in the Holocaust, Sanger and her followers changed the eugenic focus of the American Birth Control League to a more woman-centric birth control. This is also when they renamed their organization Planned Parenthood. Today, Planned Parenthood doesn’t even list the name change on their history page.
The lesson for us is how darkness seeks to masquerade as an angel of light. In this case, we learn again how sly Planned Parenthood has been with their marketing and advertising. Death looks good when it is promoted by beautiful people and glossy photos, but ultimately glossy photos cannot give life, cannot restore hope, and cannot raise the dead. Therefore, we must learn the eugenic and even racist background of Planned Parenthood, for it continues to target minorities today.
4. Sanger’s love of money continues to make abortion big business.
When Margaret met William Sanger, she married a successful New York City architect. By this marriage, he brought her out of a wandering and impoverished family to find comfort in wealthy and elite urban lifestyle. In this setting, Margaret blossomed and became a vocal leader among the rich and powerful in New York City.
Though she would eventually leave him, she continued to spend time with people of great means. In fact, many of her affairs were with men whose names are still known today (H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, etc.).
In these upper circles Sanger entertained and embraced sexual liberal views, Socialist ideals, eugenics, and other urbane ideas. Simultaneously, she also came to enjoy the pleasures that money brings. In fact, from almost the beginning of her clinical work, Sanger received great support and great financial gifts. She had made many relationships and these cultured influencers supported her in print and with cash.
She also sought every grant possible for her work, even convincing the authorities that her works deserved non-profit status. Then, when she married again, she did so with economic aims in mind. Her second husband, Noah Slee, was a conservative (if unwise) Episcopalian and generous oil tycoon who permitted his wife to have an open marriage. Tragically, his money funded much of Margaret’s work.
In short, money motivated Sanger’s endeavors throughout her life. Though she prided herself as a humanitarian and worked among the poor, she spent much time with the leaders of culture. Enjoying the privilege money brings, she had no trouble making use of the money Planned Parenthood acquired. In fact, under Sanger, Planned Parenthood often had questionable finances.
Not surprisingly, Planned Parenthood continues in the same pattern today. As David Daleidan’s undercover videos reported, the selling of baby body parts is just an continuation of Sanger’s love of money. While all forms of altruistic arguments are given for women’s health, the staggering amounts of money that Planned Parenthood receives admits of another motivation.
All in all, the poisonous seeds of Margaret Sanger continue to bear lethal fruit sixty years after her death. And they are seeds we need to see and learn in order to address the lies that are being spread today.
The Trail of Blood
In the end, Sanger’s sad legacy is a trail of blood. In the name of liberating women, her labors have led to the killing of millions of children. With 4 out of 5 clinics in low income areas, her organization has targeted minorities and the most vulnerable. While advertised as providing care for the poor and uneducated, the offer of destroying life only worsens the pain and the loss.
As Proverbs 14:12 puts it, “There is a way that seems right to a man or a woman, but the end is death.” Truly, this is the situation with abortion and the history of Margaret Sanger. Sadly, her birth control clinics and women’s advocacy has been a ruse. While she is still lauded by many, her gospel of women’s choice is stained with bloody finger prints. By contrast, the true good news of Jesus Christ doesn’t demand mothers to kill their children; it offers them life through the sacrifice of God’s sinless Son and physical help through the community of God’s people.
In short, for us to understand our cultural moment and the tenacious wickedness underlying Planned Parenthood, it is necessary to understand Margaret Sanger’s story. For that I point you to Killer Angel by George Grant. His book will provide information that other histories will not, even as it exposes the evil ideas that have led to deadly consequences. For a summary of his main points, you can read this PDF.
From all of this, may we learn more of our nations history and how we can minister to those in need. To that end, let us pray, work, and give our lives for the care of women and the children they carry.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds