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There is conflicting evidence about how many Planned Parenthood clinics are located in minority neighborhoods.
Sanger has been criticized for supporting eugenics, but scholars say her allegiance to the movement concerned public health, not race. She also didn’t support abortion, and none of her clinics performed the procedure until after her death.
Conservative commentator Candace Owens is no fan of Planned Parenthood, the nonprofit organization that has provided reproductive health care, including abortion services, for decades.
In a recent tweet, Owens cited a statistic and the organization’s history as proof Planned Parenthood’s goals are unethical.
"79% of Planned Parenthood clinics are in minority neighborhoods," Owens wrote on Twitter May 3, a post that has since been shared on Facebook. "This is not by accident. That is by its founder, Margaret Sanger's, eugenicist design. Go back and read her quotations. The Left sees racism everywhere except for where it actually is."
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
Planned Parenthood and supporters of its mission have indeed wrestled with the legacy left by Sanger, who opened the nation’s first birth control clinic in 1916 and five years later founded the organization that would become Planned Parenthood. 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."
But scholars who have studied her life and work say that as she expressed a eugenstic viewpoint, she did not link it to race — and there is no indication she supported abortion access or sought to use abortion as a form of genocide, as some have claimed.
But we were interested in the 79% data point Owens cited. Owens told PolitiFact the source for that figure was a 2015 report by the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, a conservative think tank located in Washington, D.C., that was submitted to Congress. The report said the number came from "protectingblacklife.org," a website associated with an anti-abortion organization.
But that analysis is in dispute, and data on this matter differs. Further confusing matters, the data that is available has been produced by organizations with clear stances in the abortion debate. Some of the reports are over 10 years old. They also vary in terms of how they analyze neighborhood demographics — and in terms of how they evaluate the meaning of those demographics.
And while Owens’ original post didn’t mention abortion, she pointed us to data specifically about abortion clinics. (Planned Parenthood has many clinics, not all of which provide abortions.)
While Sanger was a champion of birth control, she was largely opposed to abortion. In fact, Planned Parenthood did not begin offering abortion services until 1970, fours years after Sanger died.
Taken together, available data is inconclusive
The original source of Owens’ 79% claim, protectingblacklife.org, features a map of what it says are Planned Parenthood surgical abortion facilities that are located "within walking distance of African American or Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods."
"2010 Census results reveal that Planned Parenthood is targeting minority neighborhoods," it says. "79% of its surgical abortion facilities are located within walking distance of African American or Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods."
An abortion clinic is included on the map if it lies within 2 miles of a census tract with at least a 50% minority population or where the minority population percentage is at least 1.5 times higher than that of the surrounding county.
PolitiFact reached out to the website to get more information about the data it used but didn’t hear back.
Joerg Dreweke, associate director of U.S. communications at the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights research organization, took issue with the methodology. As an example, he pointed to what the map shows about the facility in Sioux City, Iowa.
"There are what looks like eight census tracts within walking distance," Dreweke said. "One of these eight is 27% Hispanic, which by their definition (because it is 1.5 times higher than the county average) makes it a ‘minority neighborhood,’ and therefore the facility ‘targets’ minorities.’ But that is ridiculous on its face, from the map (and again, no idea how reliable it is), that clinic appears to be surrounded by overwhelmingly white residents."
In 2014, the Guttmacher Institute published its own report to address claims that most abortion clinics are located in predominantly Black or Hispanic neighborhoods. It was broader in scope, though and Planned Parenthood was only one of the providers included in the analysis. The report, which was based on 2011 census data, found that fewer than one in 10 clinics were located in mostly Black neighborhoods and that six in 10 abortion providers were located in neighborhoods where more than half of residents are white.
Planned Parenthood cited 2015 data that said less than 4% of its clinics providing abortion services were located in communities where more than one-third of the population is Black. The original report was internal, and a Planned Parenthood spokesperson declined to share it with PolitiFact.
Planned Parenthood also pointed us to research showing that, as of 2019, 56% of its health centers are in what are considered rural, medically underserved or where there are shortages of health professionals.
Sanger’s first birth control clinic opened in 1916 in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., which was mostly Irish and Jewish. When she did open a Harlem clinic in the early 1930s, about half of its patients were white. Members of the Black establishment, including W.E.B. DuBois and the Black newspaper the Amsterdam News, supported it.
While Sanger has been criticized for supporting eugenics, historians of the movement and scholars who have studied Sanger’s life say her opinions largely centered around what would today be considered issues of public health. During Sanger’s time, one scholar wrote, "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."
Those who think Sanger wanted Black genocide often cite the Negro Project, an effort launched in 1939 to bring birth control services (but not abortion) to Southern Black communities. Black leaders like DuBois, as well as Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of the National Council of Negro Women, and Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, pastor of the Black Abyssinian Baptist Church, were members of its advisory council. First lady Eleanor Roosevelt was also supportive.
Sanger has been criticized for a particular statement from a 1939 letter she wrote advocating that organizers recruit Black ministers for the project: "We don’t want 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."
But reporting by PolitFact Georgia found Sanger was advocating for Black doctors and ministers to play leadership roles in the project to avoid misunderstandings — she was not suggesting genocide.
In addition, scholars note that her views on abortion were far from those of an advocate. In her own words: "Although abortion may be resorted to in order to save the life of the mother, the practice of it merely for limitation of offspring is dangerous and vicious." While she strongly condemned the practice, Sanger felt that it was "a woman’s duty and right to have for herself the right to say when she shall and shall not have children."
Owens claimed that "79%" of Planned Parenthood clinics are in minority neighborhoods. "This is not by accident. That is by its founder, Margaret Sanger's, eugenicist design," she said.
Data on this matter is dispute, with advocates on each side of the abortion debate arriving at separate conclusions based on different methodology. Sanger has been criticized for supporting eugenics, but scholars say her allegiance to the movement concerned public health, not race.
She also was largely opposed to abortion, and none of her clinics performed the procedure until after her death.
This statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.
Facebook post, May 3, 2022
Congress.gov, THE EFFECTS OF ABORTION ON THE BLACK COMMUNITY by the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, June 2015
Protectingblacklife.org, "Planned Parenthood Targets Minority Neighborhoods," Accessed May 7, 2022
Guttmacher Institute, Claim that Most Abortion Clinics Are Located in Black or Hispanic Neighborhoods Is False, June 1, 2014
Planned Parenthood, The Irreplaceable Role of Planned Parenthood Health Centers, January 2019
Scribd, Planned Parenthood health center locations 2017, Accessed May 7, 2022
PolitiFact, Cain claims Planned Parenthood founded for "planned genocide", April 8, 2011
PolitiFact, Did Margaret Sanger believe African-Americans "should be eliminated"?, Oct. 5, 2015
Rewire News Group, How False Narratives of Margaret Sanger Are Being Used to Shame Black Women, Aug. 20, 2015
Washington Post, Are most Planned Parenthood clinics in urban areas where women have adequate access to care?, Oct. 3, 2017
Email interview, Candace Owens, conservative commentator, May 7, 2022
Email interview, Isabel Guarnieri, communications assistant at the Guttmacher Institute, May 6, 2022
Email interview, Joerg Dreweke, associate director of communications at the Guttmacher Institute, May 7, 2022
Email interview, Megan Freeland, director of health communications at Planned Parenthood, May 9, 2022
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