Planned Parenthood . . . 100 years of destruction
January 2017 – Planned Parenthood – to some the name means a resource for family planning, sex education, and women’s health. To others it is the world leader in the killing of pre-born children and a target to be destroyed. To others it is an invincible political powerhouse.
But how did a single, pro-life birth control center founded by three women become such a powerful, global organization? Planned Parenthood pro-life? Read on.
Grassroots the liberal way
When conservatives hear the term grassroots, they typically think of conservative causes, and for good reason. Christians and political conservatives have used grassroots efforts to combat the liberal media and powerful political figures, and even to make successful movies. But grassroots movements can also be successful for liberal causes.
Margaret Sanger and two others opened a clinic in 1916 in Brooklyn, New York. They were soon arrested for violating the Comstock Act, a law forbidding the distribution of “obscene literature and articles of immoral use.” The court at the time was of the opinion that literature educating women about sex and birth control was obscene.
Sanger and her coworkers were found guilty. When they appealed, the law was not overturned, but it was adjusted to allow those in the medical field to discuss sexual issues and distribute literature for educational purposes.
It was a small case, but made large waves across the country. Soon individuals from coast to coast wanted to establish partner affiliates and clinics in their areas. To keep things orderly, Sanger and her team reorganized their little clinic into the American Birth Control League.
“That was the beginning of what we know as Planned Parenthood,” Dr. Randall O’Bannon, director of education and research for National Right to Life Committee (nrlc.org), told AFA Journal.
“Sanger started a movement and different people in different parts of the country joined her and launched a type of Planned Parenthood in their area. Eventually these people formed a network. Their networks grew and all of a sudden there were tons of affiliates everywhere.”
“One interesting note on their early days is that they were actually pro-life,” Carol Tobias, president of NRLC, added. “They were heavily involved in promoting birth control, but they opposed abortion believing it ended a life that had already started.”
Sanger promoted birth control as a means to slow, and eventually erase, births among African-Americans, whom she considered an inferior race.
From life to death
Under the new leadership of Alan Guttmacher in 1962, PP began having national impact. By this time the organization had begun lobbying Washington for family planning, something started by President Lyndon Johnson, but signed into law under President Richard Nixon with Title X in 1970.
Title X provided government subsidies for low-income families to receive birth control and family planning education.
At the same time, another change was taking place inside the walls of PP. Several leaders began taking a long look at the criminalization of abortion and wanted to see changes made. They began working under the radar, but quickly learned the issue would have to be settled in the courts. Their opportunity came with Roe v Wade, a case heard in District Court for the Northern District of Texas. After winning their case, the floodgates were open for abortion, even though decriminalizing abortion was not the end goal. PP and its supporters wanted to go further and prove that women have a “constitutional right” to abortion.
“This is an important factor they have been trying to get the courts to recognize for years,“ O’Bannon said. “Their claim is that abortion is nothing new, but that it is built into the Constitution. But there is no such right and their points are made of whole cloth.”
It goes back to their beginnings of using grassroots efforts. The strategy is that if PP can convince enough people a constitutional right exists for women to get abortions, their industry will stay forever solvent.
“I would expect their polling and focus groups, from even 40 years ago, told them this was a good hook, and they have been using it ever since,” Tobias said.
The grasp of power
With all their political power, some believe PP is unstoppable, untouchable, and unbeatable. Perhaps this attitude was never stronger than after undercover videos were released in 2016 showing PP clinics selling aborted baby parts.
Many pro-life organizations thought this would be the motivation politicians needed to end federal tax monies going to the abortion provider. Sadly, they were disappointed.
That nothing changed is disturbing, but it was an opportunity for pro-life leaders to learn.
“It’s true they are powerful, but they are not untouchable,” O’Bannon said. “How many news sources, a day or two after the videos were released, began repeating PP’s claim that those videos were heavily edited?”
The fact is, the videos showed something much deeper than the fact that PP made money off body parts. O’Bannon explained, “The point was never, necessarily, that transactions were taking place. The issue was PP’s absolute disregard for the humanity of these children. They treated them as if they were simply repositories for spare parts. That cannot be edited out.”
While it did not stop the media from adopting PP’s spin, it certainly touched the minds and hearts of millions of Americans. It strengthened a grassroots effort that rivals the one PP started in 1916.
Roe v Wade – vulnerable?
Today’s PP may feel untouchable, but the resolve of today’s pro-life leaders is absolutely unbreakable.
“We are not going to give up,” Tobias said. “The pro-life movement is set to overturn Roe v Wade, stop abortion, and protect unborn children. Our movement goes back 40 years and we will keep moving forward. But we see our battle in large and small steps.”
The large steps are federal lobbying, nation-wide education, and campaigns that get widespread coverage. But the small steps are where the real battles happen.
“It may seem small, but one of the best things pro-life people can do is tell the truth,” O’Bannon said. “People will understand, will discover. We said for years that abortion stops a beating heart. Science then came behind us with ultrasounds and fetal heartbeat stethoscopes, and they discovered we were right.
“When we talk about the humanity of the unborn child, we know that the more technology improves and knowledge grows, people will begin to discover and understand just how human an unborn child is. So don’t give up telling the truth.”
“And don’t wait for a national moment,” Tobias added. “Life doesn’t happen on the national scale, it happens on the small, personal scale. Talk to your neighbors, family, and people sitting in the pew next to you at church. Call state legislators or members of Congress. Put the ultrasounds of your children and grandchildren on social media.
“Impact the minds and hearts of those around you, and you will impact the nation.”
▶ To better understand the history, ideology, and movement started by Planned Parenthood, NRLC recommends Angela Franks’ Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy: The Control of Female Fertility (available at online and retail bookstores).
Randall O’Bannon said the book is, “a scholarly, yet readable analysis of the starkly eugenic ideology that drove Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger and those who shared
▶ More about Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood in these issues at afajournal.org:
– January, 2001
– January, 2010
– October 2012
– October 2016
– December 2016