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Does Gutierrez know about Planned Parenthood’s role in Puerto Rican sterilizations?

One particularly fiery moment in the most recent House Judiciary Committee hearing on Planned Parenthood was when Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) passionately denounced any investigation of the nation’s largest abortion business as an attack on the “right to choose.” Saying that pro-life Americans want to “turn back the clock,” he recounted that his own mother had been coerced into sterilization in Puerto Rico. In Rep. Gutierrez’s telling, Planned Parenthood is heroically saving women from this shameful past in which they were denied a choice.

There’s one problem with this historical narrative. The International Planned Parenthood Federation was sterilizing Puerto Rican women: “The Puerto Rican government and the International Planned Parenthood Federation ran a sterilization program with US government funding, and by 1968 the program had sterilized roughly one third of Puerto Rican women.”

Other students of the Puerto Rican sterilization program confirm that “NGO’s [Non-government organizations] such as Planned Parenthood have worked with the Puerto Rican government to sterilize women.”

As alluded to in Gutierrez’s rightful condemnation, this sterilization program is one of the most shameful in history. And although the government denied an official policy requiring sterilization of poorer women, Gutierrez himself confirms that women like his mother were coerced into sterilizations. And others agree with him:

“Even as an official policy was denied, there was clear support, financial and otherwise, from the medical establishment, U.S. government, the P.R. government, pro-industrialists, American scholars, and family planning agencies such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation (Michaelson 1981). Munoz Marin, founder of the Popular Democratic Party and former governor in Puerto Rico, “announced his support for a family planning program which . . . would be purely voluntary, even if it must be carried out with the ‘necessary muscle.’”

Because of this “necessary muscle,” “[a]s of 1977, Puerto Rico had the highest proportion of childbearing-aged persons sterilized in the world.”

And Planned Parenthood was right there in Puerto Rico – whether as the “muscle” or the foot soldier of the Puerto Rican sterilization program. Of course, anyone who knows anything about the roots of Planned Parenthood and the views of its founder, Margaret Sanger, will not be surprised by any of this. Planned Parenthood has a history of promoting coercive “population control” policies both foreign and domestic. And in some places, like North Carolina, Planned Parenthood may still be benefitting from this shameful past.

Puerto Rican women, like so many others around the world and here in America, were no doubt coerced into sterilization against their will. But Planned Parenthood isn’t the hero saving women from that shameful past as Gutierrez suggested. Instead, it was complicit in that sad chapter of Puerto Rican history.

Mattox is senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom and its Center for Life. Follow him on Twitter at @CaseyMattoxADF.


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