Planned Parenthood of Greater New York (PPGNY) announced yesterday that it plans to remove Margaret Sanger’s name from the Manhattan Health Center as a “public commitment to reckon with its founder’s harmful connections to the eugenics movement.” This removal is accompanied by a commitment to also rename an honorary street sign that marks the Margaret Sanger Square.
Karen Seltzer, the Board Chair at PPGNY, stated that “the removal of Margaret Sanger’s name from our building is both a necessary and overdue step to reckon with our legacy and acknowledge Planned Parenthood’s contributions to historical reproductive harm within communities of color”, and that “Margaret Sanger’s concerns and advocacy for reproductive health have been clearly documented, but so too has her racist legacy. There is overwhelming evidence for Sanger’s deep belief in eugenic ideology, which runs completely counter to our values at PPGNY. Removing her name is an important step through representing who we are as an organization and who we serve.”
Planned Parenthood has previously addressed Sanger’s connection to eugenics, and has an 8-page document titled “Opposition Claims About Margaret Sanger”. This document aims to delineate fact from fiction regarding Sanger’s stances and to acknowledge both her successes and harms. In regard to the latter, Sanger favored beliefs about hospitalization, sterilization, and preventing the immigration of disabled, “feebleminded”, etc. groups of people. She also endorsed the 1927 Buck v. Bell Supreme Court decision, which ruled that “compulsory sterilization of the ‘unfit’ was allowable under the Constitution”.
This move to further acknowledge Sanger’s legacy and her part in systemic racism is part of PPGNY’s Reviving Radical Initiative, a three-year initiative that centers communities of color through historical reckoning and building accountable relationships with these marginalized communities. Dr. Lynn Roberts, the Commissioner of Reviving Radical, echoed that “I am heartened by the decision by PPGNY to rename its Manhattan Health Center. While this comes at a time when the entire nation is reckoning with its sordid past and present realities of racial injustice, I am even more encouraged that this symbolic gesture is also accompanied by a deeper commitment to take even bolder steps toward institutional transformation.”
Dr. Roberts ended the statement by expressing, “may this organization’s realization of these mandates serve as a guide to other organizations embarking on becoming anti-racist organizations not only in name, but in practice.”
Sources: Planned Parenthood of Greater New York 7/21/20, Planned Parenthood 10/1/16, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York