Killing Black Babies and the Legacy of a Deceived King

Today, on a day when we pause to remember the towering legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I want to tell you a rather tragic story – a story about the intentional efforts to eradicate the black race.

It all begins back in the late 1800s and the early 1900s, a time when America was undergoing tremendous social change.  As a nation, we were riding high on the crest of the Gilded Age, a time when the United States economy grew at an unprecedented rate, and real wages, accumulated wealth and capital formation all exploded.  During this time, many within the social and academic elite were beginning to question the historical doctrines of the church.  The publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species had convinced many that man was nothing more than the unintended by-product of evolutionary forces that had been at play for millions upon millions of years.  And all of this contributed to the thinking of a small, but influential group of people beginning to dream of a new utopia – a world with few ethical boundaries.

Margaret Sanger, Found of Planned Parenthood

Enter Margaret Sanger. Sanger was an American socialist who dreamed of a world in which women had absolute power over their own bodies.  As a sex educator, nurse, and birth control activist, she spent her life in the pursuit of a dream: the establishment of the American Birth Control League, which later became known as the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.  To many men and women in contemporary society, Sanger is a cultural hero, remembered much in the way that we remember Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.  But there is a much darker side to Sanger’s story.  For you see, Margaret Sanger was not simply an early feminist seeking to protect the rights of her oppressed sisters.  Margaret Sanger was a disciple of Thomas Malthus, a 19th century cleric and part-time political economist.  Listen to the words of Thomas Malthus:

“All children born, beyond what would be required to keep up the population to a desired level, must necessarily perish, unless room be made for them by the deaths of grown persons.  Therefore … we should facilitate, instead of foolishly and vainly endeavoring to impede, the operations of nature in producing this mortality; and if we dread the too-frequent visitation of the horrid form of famine, we should sedulously encourage the other forms of destruction, which we compel nature to use.  Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor, we should encourage contrary habits.  In our towns, we should make the streets narrower, crowd more people into the houses, and court the return of the plague.  In the country, we should build our villages near stagnant pools, and particularly encourage settlements in all marshy and unwholesome situations.  But above all, we should reprobate specific remedies for ravaging diseases; and restrain those benevolent, but much mistaken men, who have thought they were doing a service to mankind by projecting schemes for the total extirpation of particular disorders.”[1]

Much like her teachers, Malthus and Adolph Hitler, Sanger was a eugenicist who believed that we must seek to eradicate the “human weeds,” which she defined as “feeble-minded, syphilitic, irresponsible and defective stocks” that “bred unhindered.”  And who were these “defective stocks?”  They were the Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, and anyone who wasn’t white and wealthy.  Consider Sanger’s own words:

“Our failure to segregate morons who are increasing and multiplying … demonstrates our foolhardy and extravagant sentimentalism … [Philanthropists and Christians] 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 at all.”[2]

Now, lest the reader think that this was an aberration in Sanger’s thinking, allow me to share a few more choice quotes from some of Sanger’s other writings:

“Birth control must lead ultimately to a cleaner race.”[3]

“Eugenics is the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political and social problems.”[4]

While there is no doubt that these are wicked ideas masked by the language of freedom and choice, perhaps most despicable of all is Sanger’s contemptuous plan to enlist the aid of African American ministers in the genocide of their own people.

“We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population. And the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”[5]

This, of course, brings us back around to the subject of Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1966, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America inaugurated the PPFA Margaret Sanger Award, which is given in recognition of “excellence and leadership in furthering reproductive health and reproductive rights.”  How ironic is it, that on May 5th, 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. received the award named on behalf of a racist who sought to deceive the black clergy of America so as to further her agenda of racial purity.  How ironic that he would issue these words:

“Recently, the press has been filled with reports of sightings of flying saucers. While we need not give credence to these stories, they allow our imagination to speculate on how visitors from outer space would judge us. I am afraid they would be stupefied at our conduct. They would observe that for death planning we spend billions to create engines and strategies for war. They would also observe that we spend millions to prevent death by disease and other causes. Finally they would observe that we spend paltry sums for population planning, even though its spontaneous growth is an urgent threat to life on our planet. Our visitors from outer space could be forgiven if they reported home that our planet is inhabited by a race of insane men whose future is bleak and uncertain.”[6]

Dr. King believed that the billions we spend on the “engines of war” made us a race of “insane men.”  I wonder how he would feel today knowing that we spend hunderds of millions every year – in the United States alone – on the planned termination of infants.[7]  I wonder how he would feel knowing that even today, 64% of all abortions are performed on women of color?  I wonder how he would feel knowing that 69% of the women who abort live just above or even below the poverty line?[8]  Is this the “mountaintop” of racial equality that Dr. King envisioned? Or is this Sanger’s mountaintop of racial purity?


[1] Thomas Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population. (McLean, IndyPublish: 2002).

[2] Margaret Sanger, The Pivot of Civilization, 1922.  Chapter on “The Cruelty of Charity,” pages 116, 122, and 189. Swarthmore College Library edition.

[3] Margaret Sanger. Woman, Morality, and Birth Control. New York: New York Publishing Company, 1922. Page 12.

[4] Margaret Sanger, “The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda.” Birth Control Review, October 1921, page 5.

[5] Margaret Sanger’s December 19, 1939 letter to Dr. Clarence Gamble, 255 Adams Street, Milton, Massachusetts. Original source: Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, North Hampton, Massachusetts. Also described in Linda Gordon’s Woman’s Body, Woman’s Right: A Social History of Birth Control in America. New York: Grossman Publishers, 1976.

[7] The average cost of an abortion in the United States is $413.  If 1.21 million were performed in 2005, that means that Americans collectively paid $499,730,000 to terminate babies that year.

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4 Responses to Killing Black Babies and the Legacy of a Deceived King

  1. Doug says:

    Margaret Sanger was Hitler in a dress. Only the deepest depths of sin keeps people from seeing the hateful, murderous soil groups like Planned Parenthood have sprouted from.

  2. Bob Bryant says:

    Thanks for the post Scott. This made me think of a passage in Jeremiah and how the words of the prophets ring true in all cultures and time periods.

    “Why then has this people turned away in perpetual backsliding? They hold fast to deceit; they refuse to return. I have paid attention and listened, but they have not spoken rightly; no man relents of his evil, saying, ‘What have I done?’ Everyone turns to his own course, like a horse plunging headlong into battle. Even the stork in the heavens knows her times, and the turtledove, swallow, and crane keep the time of their coming, but my people know not the rules of the Lord. How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us?’ But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie. The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord, so what wisdom is in them? Therefore, I will give their wives to others and their fields to conquerors, because from the least to the greatest everyone is greedy for unjust gain; from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush.

    There is no doubt that this country has taken steps forward in racial reconciliation. However, your statistics seem to suggest that this has been “healed lightly,” and that its really just a culture that no longer blushes at its shameful choices. We are a far cry from the vision of racial equality and justice that Dr. King dreamed of. But the kingdom must and will continue to forcefully advance as the church embodies the peace of Christ to those that are hurting and lost behind enemy lines of systematic oppression and racial injustice.

    Have mercy O God, have mercy!

  3. Wow. Perfect passage for a really tough post. On the one hand, I completely admire the work of Dr. King. He took a principled stand and rode it out to the end. On the other hand, I think we do a great disservice to people when we elevate them to a pedestal and stop asking critical questions. King was deceived by Sanger’s organization; and that deception continues to bear fruit in the world today. As someone who has worked in this field, I have seen, first hand, the correlation between poverty, race and the decision to terminate a pregnancy. We market it as “libertarian choice” and paint anyone who who dares to challenge that as a hater of women’s freedom. But there is little freedom in abortion. And I think the post-traumatic stress syndrome that overtakes many women in the aftermath of their “choice” bears witness to that truth.

    Thanks for commenting Bob.

  4. David Jones says:

    After reading this article, I feel like I am about vomit. I am stunned by her transparency. It seems like she did not even try to cloak her intentions in misleading terminology like “reproductive health.” Did the society at large know what she was up to? Or were these writings circulated only among those who thought like her?

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