“The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it” – Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, Woman and the new race
Taken out of context, this is a pretty shocking quote. Merciful to kill an infant? In context, it’s not that much better, but it is at least logically consistent and defensible … from the progressive mindset anyway. I’d like to point out a few of these defenses, oddly enough in praise of Margaret Sanger. Now, don’t get me wrong, I find her utterly reprehensible and will surely make that clear before the end of this post. But, at least she had the courage of her convictions.
Sanger was a progressive – of the early 20th century ilk. The kind who believed that we, through “progress” could fix what was wrong with men. The kind that believed we could ferret out the “root causes” of social problems and solve them, freeing men to move on to a better existence. Surely she was (and is) not alone in this. However, such ideals, when fashioned in an atheistic worldview, lead to some disturbing revelations. For instance, these early progressives were given over to such things as eugenics. (Breeding out the less desirable human characteristics makes perfect sense to the evolutionary mind – but not the Christian.)
I mention this because the context of the quote gives light to its logical defense on the basis of progress. Sanger points to statistics (probably valid at the time but surely not any more) indicating a dramatic increase in first-year-deaths for children born later in the family order. That is, once families got large, new children were far more likely to die in the first year (over 50% for the 11th child). Now, when one is in no way bound to the concept of human life as sacred, then it begins to make logical sense to murder these young ones. They have little chance of survival anyway, and will doubtless draw resources away from the older children – inhibiting their progress as well. Logically, the case can then be made that “we’re all better off” by making this sacrifice. (Collectivism always seems to revert to harming the few for the good of the whole.)
Now, this type of thinking would be shocking today. But, Sanger was not inhibited by political sensitivities of 2010. For this I commend her. She was a progressive – a murderous wretch of a progressive – and she was not afraid of telling you what she believed.
The next few statements of the book make another argument in defense of infanticide. She goes on to say: “The probability of a child handicapped by a weak constitution, an overcrowded home, inadequate food and care, and possibly a deficient mental equipment, winding up in prison or an almshouse, is too evident for comment. Every jail, hospital for the insane, reformatory and institution for the feebleminded cries out against the evils of too prolific breeding among wage-workers.” Again, Sanger is an early-20th-century-progressive, and she is sticking to her guns. What I find interesting is the frequency with which we will here such arguments in favor of abortion. “These kids won’t have sufficient love, care, or resources, and are therefore far more likely to become criminals” is a common refrain. As though that justifies their murder without due process. Guilty of potential crimes … outrageous.
It is in this connection that I would like to point out the most painful logical consistency of the discussion. Margaret Sanger had no need in this moment to draw distinction between pre and post-birth. She was fully comfortable with the cessation of human life for the betterment of society. The modern abortion defenders have fled this clean position and attempted to draw some rather tenuous line for the beginning of life – attempting to remove the guilt of the action. It is a failure though. First, the line of “birth” is indefensible – children are clearly viable long before that. Second, the guilt is not erased, years of tragedy have borne this out. In this we say that unlike the modern pro-choicers who tend to shy away from this difficult question, Margaret Sanger was no coward.
Now, at this point one might reasonably argue that context is broader than the surrounding sentences – we must consider the time in which Sanger was writing. To this I say both “OK, let’s do so” and “it doesn’t matter.” The book was originally published in 1920. It was not a depression-era book. At best we can say that Sanger was influenced by WWI and the desolation it caused. In the preface she says “It is in the deliberate restraint of human production that the fundamental problems of the family, the nation, the whole brotherhood of man find their solution. The health and longevity of the individual, the economic welfare of the workers, the general level of culture of the community, the possibility of abolishing from the world the desolating scourge of war – all of these like great human needs, depend, primarily and fundamentally, on the wise limitation of the human output.” (emphasis added.) Now, the entire quote is rich with progressive themes that we don’t have time to touch now. We merely want to point out that she desires an end to war, which the world has just seen in devastating array.
It is here that we add the “it doesn’t matter” clause. First, we rarely see “wrong” views or policies of the past successfully defended on the premise of “it was a different time”. That may be ample explanation, but rather than a defense it is usually a greater condemnation – indicating that the need for change was fundamental to society not just found in the leadership. Second, truly great principles must be beyond time. If Sanger is just a product of her times, then she can easily be discarded now as out-dated. If, however, her policies and legacy are to be cherished, she absolutely is subject to the scrutiny of 21st century moral norms and sensitivities.
It is in this light that I say she offers a much clearer picture of progressivism in general and the abortion debate in particular. She fully believed in limiting the number of people (by murder if necessary) for the sake of improving society. Modern abortionists hold a shadow of these views, but have been pressed back by the moral horror of their actions, attempting only a shell-game defense of debating about life and personal rights to “choose”. Neither of these have ever really been in debate – and I believe they are fundamentally wrong on both. Conception seems the only reasonable demarcation for “the beginning”. Further, personal rights and freedom of choice are sacred to the freedom-loving conservatives, not the progressives (who subjugate all to the authority of the collective mind). We hold that these freedoms are only subject to the rights of others, including the right to life.
I offer that our views are consistent and we can easily defend them from a Christian basis. I also offer that Margaret Sanger’s views are consistent and can easily be defended from an atheistic-progressive basis. If, however, you find yourself in some “middle ground” this day, then you may well be clinging to logically inconsistent worldview. There is still time to straighten that out though.