Ethics Quiz: Hillary And Margaret

Making Ayn Rand seem like Shirley Temple...

Making Ayn Rand seem like Shirley Temple…

Many organizations find themselves conflicted when they accord proper respect and gratitude to their founders. The older an organization is, the more likely that its founder, however brilliant and accomplished, had scary skeletons in his or her closet, and worse, espoused views that modern minds find repugnant. The United States is awash in such founding dilemmas, beginning with Thomas Jefferson, whose private life, and some of his public life too, hardly met the high ideals and aspirations that lit the way for our nation’s creation. Revolutionary hero and “Father of the American Navy” John Paul Jones was an infamous pederast, and the man who built the F.B.I, J. Edgar Hoover, was a racist and extortionist who would have been right at home, perhaps more at home, with the KGB (except for his hatred of communists). There are many more, founders and creators of institutions in every sector of American life.

Margaret Sanger (1879-1966), however, is an especially hard case. The founder of the predecessor of Planned Parenthood openly and vigorously espoused beliefs that would make her a pariah today, and an embarrassment to the pro-choice movement. She was a racist, a white supremacist, a believer in eugenics, forced sterilization, and government prevention of the proliferation of the “unfit.” It is true that many of her most repulsive beliefs were considered acceptable and even progressive among intellectuals and activists of the time. It is also true that she was vocal in espousing them, and the work she is most honored for as a birth control advocate and an early feminist cannot be easily separated from her other, less admired positions.

Here are some of her more alarming quotes; you can research her writings and speeches more deeply here. Personally, I think she makes Ayn Rand look like Shirley Temple:

1.  “[Our objective is] unlimited sexual gratification without the burden of unwanted children [Women must have the right] to live … to love… to be lazy … to be an unmarried mother … to create… to destroy… The marriage bed is the most degenerative influence in the social order… The most merciful thing that a family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”

– Margaret Sanger  The Woman Rebel, Volume I, Number 1. Reprinted in Woman and the New Race. New York: Brentanos Publishers, 1922

2.  The government ought to “apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is tainted, or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring….[and] “give certain dysgenic groups (those with ‘bad genes’) in our population their choice of segregation or sterilization.”

– Margaret Sanger, “A Plan for Peace.” Birth Control Review

3) “The third group [of society] are those irresponsible and reckless ones having little regard for the consequences of their acts, or whose religious scruples prevent their exercising control over their numbers. Many of this group are diseased, feeble-minded, and are of the pauper element dependent upon the normal and fit members of society for their support. There is no doubt in the minds of all thinking people that the procreation of this group should be stopped.”

– Margaret Sanger. Speech quoted in “Birth Control: What It Is, How It Works, What It Will Do.” The Proceedings of the First American Birth Control Conference.

4.  “There is only one reply to a request for a higher birthrate among the intelligent, and that is to ask the government to first take the burden of the insane and feeble-minded from your back. [Mandatory] sterilization for these is the answer.”

– Margaret Sanger, “The Function of Sterilization.” Birth Control Review

5.  “In passing, we should here recognize the difficulties presented by the idea of ‘fit’ and ‘unfit.’ Who is to decide this question? The grosser, the more obvious, the undeniably feeble-minded should, indeed, not only be discouraged but prevented from propagating their kind. But among the writings of the representative Eugenists [sic], one cannot ignore the distinct middle-class bias that prevails.”

– Margaret Sanger, quoted in Charles Valenza’s “Was Margaret Sanger a Racist?” Family Planning Perspectives, January-February 1985, page 44

6.  Birth control: “To create a race of thoroughbreds.”

– Margaret Sanger, “Unity.” The Birth Control Review, Nov 1921

7.  Article 1. The purpose of the American Baby Code shall be to provide for a better distribution of babies… and to protect society against the propagation and increase of the unfit.
Article 4. No woman shall have the legal right to bear a child, and no man shall have the right to become a father, without a permit…
Article 6. No permit for parenthood shall be valid for more than one birth.

Margaret Sanger, “Plan for Peace” , Birth Control Review

8.  “Hordes of people [are] born, who live, yet who have done absolutely nothing to advance the race one iota. Their lives are hopeless repetitions… Such human weeds clog up the path, drain up the energies and the resources of this little earth. We must clear the way for a better world; we must cultivate our garden…Today eugenics is suggested by the most diverse minds as the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political and social problems…As an advocate of birth control I wish… to point out that the unbalance between the birth rate of the ‘unfit’ and the ‘fit, admittedly the greatest present menace to civilization, can never be rectified by the inauguration of a cradle competition between these two classes. In this matter, the example of the inferior classes, the fertility of the feeble-minded, the mentally defective, the poverty-stricken classes, should not be held up for emulation.On the contrary, the most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective.”

– Margaret Sanger. “The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda.” Birth Control Review

9. “Our failure to segregate morons who are increasing and multiplying… demonstrates our foolhardy and extravagant sentimentalism…[Philanthropists] encourage the healthier and more normal sections of the world to shoulder the burden of unthinking and indiscriminate fecundity of others; which brings with it, as I think the reader must agree, a dead weight of human waste. Instead of decreasing and aiming to eliminate the stocks that are most detrimental to the future of the race and the world, it tends to render them to a menacing degree dominant…We are paying for, and even submitting to, the dictates of an ever-increasing, unceasingly spawning class of human beings who never should have been born at all.”

– Margaret Sanger, “The Pivot of Civilization”

10. “One fundamental fact alone, however, indicates the necessity of Birth Control if eugenics is to accomplish its purpose…Before eugenists and others who are laboring for racial betterment can succeed, they must first clear the way for Birth Control. Like the advocates of Birth Control, the eugenists, for instance, are seeking to assist the race toward the elimination of the unfit. Both are seeking a single end but they lay emphasis upon different methods.”

– Margaret Sanger. “Birth Control and Racial Betterment,

And, of course, there is Sanger’s infamous quote from her “Pivot of Civilization,” which has popped up a lot lately, and which is widely believed to be referring to immigrants, blacks and the poor, though the context is broad and the exact meaning is ambiguous: “…human weeds,’ ‘reckless breeders,’ ‘spawning… human beings who never should have been born.” 

At this point, the question of Sanger’s views on race have been thoroughly muddled by the warriors on both sides of the abortion debate. Opponents of abortion and Planned Parenthood make a dubious case that Sanger was trying to “wipe out” the black race; her defenders argue, improbably, that this  women who was an open advocate of purging society couldn’t possibly be a racist. Neither position is persuasive. This is all confirmation bias.

Nevertheless, Sanger’s views and statements on many topics would not be fairly called a shining example of liberal thought, or even rational thought. Thus it was strange, in 2009, for Hillary Clinton to say this, while accepting a Planned Parenthood award:

”I admire Margaret Sanger enormously, her courage, her tenacity, her vision…I am really in awe of her, there are a lot of lessons we can learn from her life.”

When The Weekly Standard, those right-wing spoilsports, asked for clarification about Clinton’s admiration of Sanger’s “vision” some of its disturbing aspects, a State Department spokesman said that Clinton’s words “stand on their own.”  Translation: “Hillary isn’t going to risk angering her feminist buddies at Planned Parenthood, and anything you guys point out about Sanger will be dismissed by Clinton’s mainstream media protectors as typical conservative Clinton hate.”

Let us stipulate, however, that if a Republican presidential candidate ever expressed unequivocal praise for a figure holding Sanger’s views as expressed above, The New York Times would crucify him.

Especially if his wife got a lot of speeding tickets.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Should voters care that Clinton has expressed limitless admiration and approval for Margaret Sanger and her vision, or is this trivial?

My view is that it is not trivial. It is one more example of how unqualified and untrustworthy Hillary Clinton is for the Presidency.

There are four explanations for her declaration of untrammeled admiration for Sanger and her vision:

1. Hillary believes in eugenics, the elimination of the right to child birth, and Sanger’s other outrageous beliefs.

2. Hillary doesn’t know about Sanger’s more radical views, and was just referring to the Planned Parenthood founder’s views on women and birth control. (After all, Sanger opposed abortion, using a “pro-life” argument.)

3. Hillary knows, but assumed that either her audience didn’t, or didn’t care, and thought broad endorsement of Sanger would “play.” (How many in the audience, for example, knew that Sanger opposed abortion, not to mention the ugly practices she espoused?)

4. Hillary doesn’t admire Sanger at all, and was lying.

These are all bad. The statement is careless, stupid, dishonest, deceitful, autocratic or irresponsible. Take your pick. I think that it matters when aspiring leaders are careless, stupid, dishonest, autocratic  deceitful, or irresponsible.

I’m funny that way.

I realize this disqualifies me a possible Hillary Clinton supporter.

30 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: Hillary And Margaret

  1. John Paul Jones did fool around with a 12-year-old in Russia, but the accusations didn’t fully stick because they were brought by someone known to be his political enemy. Other than that, no similar incidents seem to emerge. I don’t think that qualifies him as an “infamous pederast,” someone with a reputation for seducing the underage. That said, that episode is certainly a blot on his record, military officers are supposed to be better than that. That said, the point that heroes often have all too human foibles and rarely a completely clean record is well-taken.

    All too often, tolerance for wrongdoing on the part of admired figures depends on who is doing the admiring. As Americans we bring an outsider’s perspective to other national heroes: Ataturk, Michael Collins, Francisco Lopez, and might be willing to level criticism that a Turk or Irishman or Paraguayan would not tolerate. As a conservative I’m frankly not interested in hearing a whole lot of Reagan-bashing, as black people a lot of my co-workers will brook no criticism of Obama, and as fairly liberal women, most current women don’t want to hear any criticism of Hilary, or, for that matter, the details of Margaret Sanger. All they know is they want to control their own lives and be able to get some recreational sex without life-changing consequences. The fact that someone like them might occupy the White House soon thrills them, and they really aren’t interested in digging deeper than that.

    • It’s fair to say, though, that if someone says that they admire the vision of Reagan, or Obama, they are not nearly giving a potential endorsement to anything as objectively vile as Sanger’s positions.

      • Objectively, no. My main point was that a lot of devotees of both won’t even listen to criticism of their guy, well-founded or not. That’s where you get the relatively polite (but still closed-minded) “this is a conversation I can’t have” responses and the not as polite stfus. The same holds true for Hitlery.

  2. I don’t know, I kinda like the idea of segregating morons. Oh, wait, at that time, moron was an actual classification of mental retardation, not a description of Eric Holder. Sorry, my bad.

  3. Hillary’s unqualified stated admiration for Margaret Sanger is not only not trivial – it is signature significance. She is unfit for election for so much as neighborhood public-dog-poop-scooper. (God help her dog, if she owns one.)

    Jack, it makes no difference which of your four explanations applies. Hillary’s statement is merely confirmation of her ends-justifies-the-means approach to gaining power.

    • That is the last time I am going to refer to that horrible ostensible woman by her public name. From now on, it’s Tyrannosaurus Regina, or T. Regina. Yes, the virus of identity politics has finally infected me, too.

          • I like “Hitlery” and “T. Vagina,” too. Steve-O, I believe, suggested the latter some time ago, and it has gradually become more likeable. I might switch to “T. Vagina” yet. “Regina” is mainly meant only to be gender-specific, with a play on the species-generic “Rex.”

            It is probably a good point, that the woman we are discussing does not deserve any kind of association with anything queen-y, royal, or monarchic – even if such is her virtual status, given her followers and enablers. But on that (reference to royalty), I have seen, and also like (and may have even used) “Hillarie Antoinette,” mainly because it’s an oblique, “revolutionary” way of associating someone with someone else in history who eventually received her just desserts via a certain manner of meeting her death.

  4. Margaret Sanger (1879-1966), however, is an especially hard case. The founder of the predecessor of Planned Parenthood openly and vigorously espoused beliefs that would make her a pariah today, and an embarrassment to the pro-life movement

    Ms. Sanger is indeed an embarrassment to the “Pro-life” movement, but I am sure that is not what you meant! 😉

  5. There is a thinly-disguised nastiness to Hillary. She is one of those new “feminists” who probably not only endorses abortion, but revels in high abortion rates. It’s likely that she more or less agrees with Sanger’s sentiments, as many moderns discreetly do.

  6. Jack,
    I have ABSOLUTELY no disagreement with anything you said; however, I’m curious what prompted you to bring it up now? The quote is from 2009 and, while I doubt her views have changed (or that she would have said anything differently were the speech given today), it doesn’t feel particularly apropos — especially in light of the more contemporary scandals and mis-speakings. Benghazi is considered “old news” and this pales even that.

    As I said, just asking.

    Best of wishes,

    • Great question. My son asked if I had seen a Hillary Clinton meme going around Facebook. I said no, and he showed me, IT had Clinton’s speech to PP as I quoted it, and that quote about “human weeds,” with the meme claiming it was about blacks. It interested me because I am sure that there are lots of unexplored Clinton skeletons out there, so I checked the Sanger quote, found that it was misrepresented, but discovered the others. And I wondered myself how legit or fair it would be to criticize a Presidential candidate who praised someone like Sanger in such uninhibited terms. I was also thinking about the Obama staffer who was dumped after calling Mao one of her “favorite philosophers,.”

  7. Two points:

    1) That Hillary Clinton is the devil incarnate is arguable; that she is “Bertha better then you” is not. Oh, how I wish she would start “namein’ names!

    2) This recalled the statement “(T)hree generations of imbeciles are enough” of Justice Oliver Wendell Homes in Buck vs Bell 274 US 200

    • That would definitely be the Bill Answer, and is a good bet for Hillary too. My favorite Bill example was when he said in a speech that the President he was named after would be horrified if he came back and found that the US had no national health care system. Did Bill really not know that Jefferson was not a Big Gov, nanny state fan, to understate Tom’s anti-government views?

    • That scienceblog entry implicitly denies any genetic component to intelligence. PZMyers seems to have let his ideology trump the facts. As uncomfortable as the facts make some people, genes do cluster, and intelligence is influenced by them. It probably would be a purely temporary state if it weren’t for assortative mating.

      That being said, I’m still not worried about morons completely outbreeding intelligent people.

      • And you should be. Poverty-stricken peoples are poorly fed, poorly educated and suffer through a large number of environmental dangers, all of which can and do produce genetic damage. Add to that, the birth rates for them is much higher (as is, sadly, infant mortality rates), and you have the perfect storm for Marching Morons.

        • And yet, when I think of marching morons, I automatically see Nancy Pelosi and her posse marching triumphantly around after ramming Obamacare illegally through Congress.

          • Excellent!! Yeah, talk about a Marching Moron…makes you wonder about San Francisco, doesn’t it? Or, now that I think about it, not so much.

  8. I’m surprised no one has pointed out that Martin Luther King, Jr. was also a staunch admirer of Margaret Sanger, and was even awarded the Margaret Sanger award.

    If she’s good enough for him…

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