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• Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, did not refer to Black women as weeds and was not a supporter of the Ku Klux Klan or a Democrat.
Following the leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion case, a U.S. Senate candidate’s Facebook post claimed Black abortion-rights activists are "picking up the fight for a woman who founded Planned Parenthood."
Peggy Hubbard, an Illinois Republican who ran for U.S. Senate in 2020 and is running again this year, wrote in a Facebook post that Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger "referred to Black women as weeds that needed to be plucked from their garden" and was a "white supremacist, supporter of the KKK and DEMOCRAT."
Sanger embraced the idea of eugenics, defined by the National Human Genome Research Institute as the "scientifically inaccurate theory that humans can be improved through selective breeding of populations." Her espousal of those ideas has led Planned Parenthood to take steps to distance her name from the organization.
When asked via email if she could provide evidence to support her claim, Hubbard replied, "Yes! Google!"
More than one inaccurate quote about "human weeds" has been attributed to Sanger, including that "Slav, Latin and Hebrew immigrants are human weeds" and that "colored people are like human weeds." But Sanger did not say or write either of those comments, according to PolitiFact and the Washington Post, respectively.
And while Sanger spoke to a group connected to the KKK — called the Women of the Ku Klux Klan, a parallel, official organization — she described it in her 1938 autobiography as a willingness to talk to anyone in order to advocate for birth control. Her descriptions of the encounter suggested she was not a supporter; she described it as "one of the weirdest experiences I had in lecturing."
Sanger did make other published comments about "human weeds," including:
"How are we to breed a race of human thoroughbreds unless we follow the same plan? We must make this country into a garden of children instead of a disorderly back lot overrun with human weeds." (1924)
"I was merely thinking of the poor mothers of congested districts of the East Side who had so poignantly begged me for relief, in order that the children they had already brought into the world might have a chance to grow into strong and stalwart Americans . . . Birth Control is not contraception indiscriminately and thoughtlessly practiced. 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."(1923)
When Sanger worked on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, it was an "overcrowded slum that was home to generations of immigrants, mostly Italian and Eastern European," according to the Margaret Sanger Papers Project, an editing effort launched in 1985 by historian Esther Katz and sponsored by New York University's Department of History.
For Sanger, "eugenics was meant to begin with the voluntary use of birth control," Salon reported in 2011.
It was at a time, prior to the Holocaust, when eugenics was a popular intellectual movement considered "far more respectable than birth control," according to Salon, which said at that point, contraception was still legally banned under obscenity statutes.
"The purpose of eugenics was to improve the human race by having people be more healthy through exercise, recreation in parks, marriage to someone free from sexually transmitted diseases, well-baby clinics, immunizations, clean food and water, proper nutrition, non-smoking and drinking," said Ruth Engs, professor emeritus at the Indiana University School of Public Health and an expert in the movement, who was interviewed by PolitiFact New Hampshire in 2015.
The Facebook post’s two-pronged claim — that Sanger referred to Black women as weeds and was a supporter of the KKK — implies that she was racist, but as PolitiFact reported in 2015, "even authors who treat Sanger critically don’t believe she held negative views about African-Americans."
Jean H. Baker, who wrote a biography of Sanger and is the Bennett-Harwood professor of history at Goucher College in Maryland, told PolitiFact in 2015 that attempts to portray Sanger as a bigot are misguided.
"She was far ahead of her times in terms of opposing racial segregation," Baker said. "She worked closely with Black leaders to open birth control clinics in Harlem and elsewhere. She believed all women should have the information about birth control that rich women had, hence her lecture to the KKK women."
Hubbard said Sanger referred to Black women as weeds that needed to be plucked from their garden, and was a supporter of the KKK and a Democrat
But Sanger never made that statement about Black women, according to historians and multiple fact-checks.
Sanger made remarks about "human weeds" that most people would find objectionable now, but she did not link the comments to any race or ethnicity.
And Sanger did speak before the Women of the Ku Klux Klan, a group connected to the KKK, but she did so in her role as an advocate for birth control and not as a supporter. She was not a Democrat, but a member of the Socialist Party.
We rate this claim False.
Ballotpedia, "Peggy Hubbard," accessed May 6, 2022
Email interview, Peggy Hubbard, May 9, 2022
Facebook post, May 3, 2022
Iowa State University, Archives of Women’s Political Communication, "Margaret H. Sanger," accessed May 6, 2022
Margaret Singer Papers Project, "Impetus for a Movement: Sanger’s ‘Impressions of the East Side,’" September 2012
National Institutes of Health, National Human Genome Research Institute, "Eugenics and Scientific Racism," last updated Dec. 1, 2021
New York University, The Margaret Sanger Papers Project, "Birth Control or Race Control? Sanger and the Negro Project," Fall 2001
PolitiFact, "Did Margaret Sanger believe African-Americans "should be eliminated"?" Oct. 5, 2015
PolitiFact, "NH Rep. Bill O'Brien says Margaret Sanger was active participant in KKK," March 18, 2015
PolitiFact, "No, Margaret Sanger never said 'Slav, Latin and Hebrew immigrants are human weeds ...'" Jan. 25, 2019
PolitiFact, "Peggy Hubbard," accessed May 4, 2022
Salon, "Was Planned Parenthood's founder racist?" Nov. 2, 2011
The Nation, "Sanger vs. Sanger," July 12, 2007
Washington Post, "Margaret Sanger, Planned Parenthood and black abortions: Ben Carson’s false claim," Aug. 18, 2015
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