Analysis. G.K. Chesterton once said: “Unless a man becomes the enemy of an evil, he will not even become its slave, but rather its champion.” These words seem apropos today as we witness immoral actions being called good, and then elevated as a human right. When abortion became legal in all 50 states on Jan. 22, 1973, I was tucked away safely in my mother’s womb, with no idea of how this monumental Supreme Court decision would affect the nation I would soon be born into. Certainly, I couldn’t fathom the nefarious forces that had allowed this type of evil to happen.
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Much time has passed since then, and here I am in 2023 — approaching my 50th birthday. But I often find myself traveling back in time, trying to figure out how our nation got to where over 60 million babies have been aborted. Of course, we have made great strides against this destructive agenda in the past few years, such as the overturn of Roe vs. Wade, on June 24, 2022. Yet, where did this attack on the unborn begin? And more important, where is it all going?
I decided to take a deep dive into the origins of the abortion movement to see how it had gained a foothold in our society. My research led me to a woman who is hailed as both a “great hero” and a heartless villain. Her complicated legacy is tied to the nation’s largest provider of abortions, Planned Parenthood.
Margaret Louisa Higgins, also known as Margaret Sanger, has been regarded by some as a champion for women’s rights and sexual freedom. In 1921, she founded the American Birth Control League, whose name was changed to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1942. Currently, Planned Parenthood performs over 300,000 abortions per year. In recent times, however, this lucrative organization has also participated in the trafficking of aborted baby body parts for financial gain. It’s true that during Sanger’s tenure, abortions were not legal. Nonetheless, her philosophies on motherhood, race, health, religion, and social class were key drivers in the abortion movement we see today.
A staunch believer in eugenics (selective breeding), population control, and sexual liberation, Sanger made it her life’s work to free women from the “bondage” of childbearing. She is quoted as saying: “I think the greatest sin in the world is bringing children into the world that have disease from their parents, that have no chance in the world to be a human being practically — delinquents, prisoners, all sorts of things — just marked when they are born.”
The statement itself is both shocking and Hitleresque. But how, exactly, did Sanger arrive at these conclusions? To find out, one has to go all the way back to the beginning — to her beginning that is — to uncover the Enemy’s sinister fingerprints.
In 1879, Sanger was born into a large, impoverished family in upstate New York. Her free-thinking father, Michael Higgins, had a difficult time supporting his 11 children. As a Civil War veteran, he’d seen his fair share of violence and death, which had a dramatic effect on his behavior. His oppressed family dealt constantly with his bouts of drinking, violent outbursts, and raging atheism. Additionally, Higgins invested much of his time in radical, socialist causes while his family struggled to make ends meet. The defining time in Sanger’s life came when she watched her mother die of tuberculosis, at the age of 49. Sanger attributed her mother’s weakened condition to the strain of enduring 18 pregnancies, of which only 11 children survived. In that moment, Sanger came to her own realization that no woman should have to suffer like her mother had.
Eventually, Sanger left home and went on to college. Here she began following in her father’s socialist footsteps by engaging in radical politics, feminism, and unfettered sex. After her studies, she served as a nurse for a short time, but she soon left that behind. Instead of getting tied down by work, she found a well-to-do businessman to marry. Her husband’s social circles were mingled with Marxists and radicals who had a profound influence on the young Sanger. She wrote: “Our living room became a gathering place where liberals, anarchists, Socialists, and IWW’s [Industrial Workers of the World] could meet. These vehement individualists had to have an audience.”
She spent her time listening to activists who insisted that capitalism was oppressive and that sex should be liberating. She was befriended by a militant utopian named Emma Goldman, who schooled her in the ideals of free love, anarchy, and humanism. Not long after this tutelage, she informed her husband that she needed “emancipation from every taint of Christianized capitalism — including the strict bonds of the marriage bed. She even suggested to him that they seriously consider experimenting with various trysts, infidelities, fornication, and adulteries.”
Though Sanger’s husband tried to salvage the marriage, her ideas about sex became too much. She engaged in many extramarital affairs, but her 30-year relationship with author, researcher, and sexologist Havelock Ellis cemented the course of her career. Ellis believed that all sexual behavior was normal and did not result in physical harm. Additionally, he advocated for euthanasia, selective breeding, and the “voluntary” sterilization of the poor. Sanger’s and Ellis’ relationship exemplified “free love” and became an example to the rebels who followed them.
Socialite Mabel Dodge, known internationally as the “New Woman” because of her sexual radicalism, described Sanger by saying: “She was the first person I ever knew who was an openly ardent propagandist for the joys of the flesh. … Margaret personally set out to rehabilitate sex. She was one of its first conscious promulgators.” In view of these facts, perhaps it’s no surprise that Sanger eventually left her husband so she could fully satisfy her desires.
To support herself, Sanger launched her own newspaper, with a militant spirit, titled The Woman Rebel. Its official slogan was “No Gods and No Masters,” which was her interpretation of Nietzsche’s saying: “Neither God nor master.” The content of the first issue shocked its readers by denouncing marriage as “a degenerate institution, capitalism as indecent exploitation, and sexual modesty as obscene prudery.” The next issue was just as explosive, because it encouraged women to “look the whole world in the face with a go-to-hell look in the eyes.” Still another issue made this statement: “Rebel women claim the following rights: the right to be an unmarried mother, the right to destroy … and the right to love.”
Though Sanger was charged with publishing lewd and indecent articles, she would not renounce her position, because she viewed sexual freedom as salvation for women. Time and time again, when asked what the root cause of all human evil and misery was, she replied without hesitation that it was most certainly Christian morality. Her answer to the problem of human suffering was sexual liberation. As a follower of Nietzsche’s moral relativism and collective rationalism, she believed that men and women should determine their own values by following their own “inner law.” Nietzsche’s concept of the “Ubermensch” (“superman” or “overman”) stresses the idea that humanity can rise above the morality of the masses and develop its own standards. In Sanger’s eyes, this was where humanity had go in order to make progress.
Sanger’s adherence to the principles of Thomas Malthus, a well-known proponent of population control, only helped solidify her beliefs that sexual liberation through birth control was an essential key to preventing misery and starvation. Like Malthus, she saw population growth as a ticking time bomb that threatened society’s existence. Malthus viewed missionary work, charity, and philanthropy as “counterproductive,” as they only perpetuated the problems of the social classes. In his book, An Essay on the Principle of Population, he wrote: “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 … 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.”
In essence, Malthusians believed that in order for Western civilization to survive, the poor, the sick, and the inferior classes had to be suppressed or eliminated. Sanger’s approach to these principles was to normalize contraception and sterilization among these groups. Of course, those who followed in her footsteps would advocate for abortion and even infanticide.
In Sanger’s view, the flourishing of Christian values allowed large families to become a burden instead of a blessing. These values encouraged the perpetual problem of “feeblemindedness,” and allowed “defective stocks,” to infiltrate human populations. Sanger’s ideas stemmed from her firm belief in both evolution and eugenics. In 1919, she wrote: “I personally believe in the sterilization of the feeble-minded, the insane and the syphilitic.” Furthermore, in 1921, she stressed: “The most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective.”
In 1925, Sanger put her eugenic views on full display by writing: “The government of the U.S. deliberately encourages and even makes necessary by its laws the breeding — with a breakneck rapidity — of idiots, defectives, diseased, feeble-minded, and criminal classes. Billions of dollars are expended by our state and federal governments and by private charities and philanthropies for the care, maintenance, and the perpetuation of these classes. Year by year their numbers are mounting. Year by year more money is expended … to maintain an increasing race of morons which threatens the very foundations of our civilization.”
An article in The New York Times dated April 8, 1923, highlights her motivation for birth control: “It means the release and cultivation of the better racial elements in our society, and the gradual suppression, elimination and eventual extirpation of defective stocks — those human weeds which threaten the blooming of the finest flowers of American civilization.”
Though proponents of Sanger’s philosophies insist she wasn’t referring to specific races when she advocated for eugenics, that argument has been disproved time and time again. In 1939, Sanger began “The Negro Project,” with the aim of providing birth-control services for black communities in the South. Her motivation for projects like this can be found in her shameful ties to such known eugenicists as Lothrop Stoddard, who advocated that “non-white races must be excluded from America.” This high-ranking leader in the Ku Klux Klan also served on the board of Sanger’s American Birth Control League.
Other eugenics enthusiasts served on Sanger’s ABCL, such as Clarence Gamble, who openly disparaged certain races as inferior and pushed for the sterilization of the disabled. Gamble is quoted as saying: “The mass of Negroes, particularly in the South, still breed carelessly and disastrously, with the result that the increase among negroes, even more than among whites, is from that portion of the population least intelligent and fit, and least able to rear children properly.”
As if this weren’t enough evidence, author Harriet Washington writes in Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present that ABCL collaborated with the Clinical Research Bureau to form the Birth Control Federation of America — which effectively set up “experimental clinics” seeking the best way to reduce or eliminate black populations. In this way, testing could be done on “less valuable populations.”
As Christians, we look at this evidence and it’s easy to spot the enemy’s hand. His ultimate goal is to steal, kill, and destroy. But Sanger’s eyes were blinded because she rejected the Almighty Creator who forms every child in the mother’s womb, molding and designing a magnificent plan for each one from the beginning. In an interview with Mike Wallace in 1957, Sanger called herself a born humanitarian who doesn’t like to see suffering, starvation, or cruelty. Yet, she couldn’t see the inhumanity in her own darkened heart and how that led to even greater despair, hopelessness, and even murder.
In today’s world, we are seeing the fruit of Sanger’s work. Whether it’s the dehumanization of the unborn, or the rejection of God’s plan for families, the lies of the enemy are being sown into the fertile ground of culture and into the minds and hearts of our leaders. Each year, from 1966 to 2015, the Margaret Sanger Awards were given to those who had made outstanding contributions to the reproductive health and rights movement. Among the recipients of this award: John D Rockefeller III (1967); Jane Fonda (2003); Ted Turner (2004); Hillary Clinton (2009); and Nancy Pelosi (2014). Though many of these so-called champions of women’s rights believe they are empowering women, the sad truth is that they are demoralizing them.
In recent years, Planned Parenthood stopped giving these awards and has tried to distance itself from Margaret Sanger’s legacy. But Planned Parenthood cannot hide its past as Sanger’s influence lives on into the future of the organization.
As this destructive agenda barrels forward, my 50th birthday is quickly approaching. Even so, I will declare a jubilee over this wicked scheme. Of course, IFA is celebrating its 50th year of shaping history through prayer and fasting. This is a jubilee celebration for intercessors like YOU, who continue fighting this battle with grace and fortitude. As the Sangers of this world cry “my body my choice,” our answer is “Come to Jesus, repent, and be saved.”
Lord Jesus, in this nation and in the world, there is an all-out attack on life. But You have given us “authority to trample on serpents and scorpions.” We take up this power and ask for Your help to use it boldly and effectively. Let 2023 be a jubilee year for those caught up in the lies of “sexual liberation.” Bring them to a place of repentance and forgiveness, Lord, because only Your truth can set them free.
What does the life of Margaret Sanger reveal to you? How can we pray against the agenda of free love, sexual liberation, and moral relativism?
For more about the life of Margaret Sanger, read Killer Angel: A Biography of Planned Parenthood’s Founder Margaret Sanger, by George Grant.
Angela Rodriguez is an author, blogger, and home-schooling mom who studies the historical and biblical connections between Israel and the U.S. You can visit her blogs at 67owls.com and 100trumpets.com. Her latest book, Psalm 91: Under the Wings of Jesus, was released in June 2021. Photo Credit: Wikipedia.