Pro-Choicer admits movement’s racist, eugenic origins

Pro-Choice feminist SE Smith is describing the racist motives of the early pro-choice movement:

“While members of the reproductive rights movement are often deeply uncomfortable with discussing, let alone confronting, the origins of the movement, this is an important and necessary part of fighting for reproductive rights for all… The unfortunate truth is that many of the early fighters for access to reproductive rights did so for less-than-perfect reasons; Margaret Sanger, for example, held up as an icon of birth control, strongly believed in eugenics.

In her “Morality and Birth Control” speech (1918), Sanger stated that “all of our problems are the result of overbreeding among the working class.” Lest you think this was a one-time issue, she noted in a speech in 1920 that “[Birth control] sweeps the diseased, the weakling and the feebleminded to the wall with her great gestures that clean the world for the fit and the strong.” She was at it again in Birth Control Review in 1921 with “The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda”: “On the contrary, the most urgent problem today is how to discourage the open fertility of the mentally and physically defective.”

Sanger felt that poor people, disabled persons, and people of color should not reproduce, and she stated so quite openly. Her advocacy for birth control was rooted in part in a desire to advance a eugenic agenda…

It’s deeply saddening that the origins of the movement lie in eugenics and an attempt to control fertility, not to promote bodily autonomy….

Members of minority groups have good reason to fear the reproductive rights movement, to be concerned by some of its rhetoric, and to feel left out of discussions.…

When I bring these issues up, I commonly encounter significant anger, especially from leaders of the reproductive rights movement who are disconcerted by discussions like this one. Their reactions are often defensive, and are focused on painting the movement in a better light by attempting to negate what I’ve just said.”

SE Smith “Justice for All” in Kim Wyatt, Sari Botton Get Out Of My Crotch: 21 Writers Respond to America’s War on Women’s Rights and Reproductive Health (South Lake Tahoe, California: Cherry Bomb Books, 2012) Kindle edition

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About Sarah

Sarah is a member of the board of The Pro-life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians.
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