State Watch

Planned Parenthood to remove Margaret Sanger’s name from center over ‘racist legacy’

Planned Parenthood of Greater New York (PPGNY) announced Tuesday that it will remove the name of Margaret Sanger, who founded the national organization, because of her racist legacy and her connections to the eugenics movement. 

Planned Parenthood’s Manhattan Margaret Sanger Health Center will be renamed, and city officials are working to rename the nearby Margaret Sanger Square. The organization said the new name would be announced soon.

Sanger, who was a nurse, established the first birth control clinic in the U.S., which would eventually become the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. 

PPGNY said the decision came out of “a public commitment to reckon with its founder’s harmful connections to the eugenics movement.”

Eugenics is a discredited, racist theory that states the human race can be “improved” through selective breeding of those with “desirable” traits. The theory often targeted poor people, people of color, those with disabilities and other marginalized groups. 

The organization said in a statement that the renaming of the building was an “overdue step” to acknowledge the legacy of Planned Parenthood’s harm to communities of color. 

“Margaret Sanger’s concerns and advocacy for reproductive health have been clearly documented, but so too has her racist legacy,” said Karen Seltzer, chairwoman of the board at PPGNY.

A 2016 Planned Parenthood fact sheet on Sanger highlights her accomplishments, though it acknowledges that “while she was a woman of heroic accomplishments, Margaret Sanger had some beliefs, practices, and associations that we acknowledge, denounce, and work to rectify today.”

The fact sheet noted that Planned Parenthood “denounces” Sanger’s involvement in the eugenics movement and her endorsement of the 1927 Buck v. Bell decision that allowed states to sterilize citizens who were deemed “unfit” without their consent.

In its announcement Tuesday, PPGNY said the decision “reflects the first of many organizational shifts to address Sanger’s legacy and system of institutional racism, which negatively impacts the well-being of patients, staff and PPGNY’s broader communities.” 

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