Margaret Sanger Was Anti-Abortion!?!? Peter Bagge on Planned Parenthood, Eugenics, and "Woman Rebel"

Did you know that Margaret Sanger (1879-1966), the birth-control pioneer often credited as the founder of Planned Parenthood, was actually anti-abortion?

Reason contributor Peter Bagge's new cartoon biography of Sanger, Woman Rebel, is a deep, heavily researched dive into Sanger's unconventional life and times. An apostle and practitioner of "free love," Sanger was arrested multiple times merely for discussing contraception and sex. And, as Bagge explains in a Q&A with Nick Gillespie, her experiences as a nurse serving the urban poor led her both to condemn abortion and to push for female sexual autonomy.

Even Sanger's support for eugenics is widely misunderstood, says Bagge, who argues that she never embraced coercive schemes to enforce racial or ethnic purity. Whether you're pro-life or pro-choice, Bagge's take introduces you to a Sanger you've never met before.

And check out a brand-new, expanded hardcover edition of Bagge's Everybody is Stupid Except for Me, a collection of over a decade's worth of material for Reason magazine.

About 6 minutes.

Edited by Meredith Bragg. Scroll below for downloadable versions and subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube channel to get automatic notification whenever we post new videos.Scroll below for downloadable versions and subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube channel to get automatic notification whenever we post new videos.

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  • sarcasmic||

    You know who else was anti-abortion?

  • Floridian||

    Lou reed?

  • ||

    Moloch Ba'al?

  • ||

    That's the dude from Sleepy Hollow!

  • ||

    It's also the name of my friend's cactus.

    Is Sleepy Hollow good? I've been tempted to start watching it.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I assume cactus is a euphemism for penis, and that sleepy hollow is a euphemism for like the butthole or something? I'm not clear why you would want to watch that though.

  • ||

    If this friend has a penis to name Moloch Ba'al, I'd be VERY surprised.

    Naming one's penis after a child-eating Semitic deity would probably be too hipster for anyone I know anyway, but I'll add it to my post-hookup questionnaire and let you know if anyone's done it.

  • ||

    my post-hookup questionnaire

    Better late than never.

  • ||

    I'm enjoying it immensely. It's complex and dark and the special effects are good, and it also has some light moments. It leaves you guessing some characters' motivations. It appears to have been filmed on or near location. The show has a general arc, with each episode being a sub-story of the overall. It's a clever way for them to stretch out the series indefinitely.

    The dude who plays Ichabod is HOT.

    They do not follow the story of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow whatsoever, other than a handful of names - Ichabod, Katrina and the town of Sleepy Hollow.

    The Washington Irving stories don't exist in the TV show's "world". I was thrown off by the fact that no one was startled at Ichabod Crane's name, until I found out Ichabod doesn't exist there.

  • ||

    The premise for that show is so stupid that I'm stunned it actually got produced. I read an article interviewing the creators and their motivations for the show didn't even make sense. Not to mention that Ichabod Crane was a fucking schoolteacher, not the 18th century equivalent of a Navy SEAL.

  • Brett L||

    This was the era before our superior Government took over the schools. He probably HAD to be a hand-to-hand expert just to get home safe at night!

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    It's no stupider than Supernatural, which seems to be in its 15th season.

  • Brandybuck||

    Can't be any more stupid that the movie of the same name.

  • Zeb||

    The Tim Burton movie? I thought it was great.

  • ||

    The show is awesome. Sounds like you haven;t watched it.

    It also has absolutely zero to do with Washington Irving's story.

  • ||

    As you are correct and I haven't watched it, I'll have to take your word for it. All I know is that I read a few articles about it just before it aired to see if I thought I would be interested, and everything I read made me decide to completely ignore it. Every commercial I've seen for it has merely reinforced that, and based on the fact that it is written by the guys who wrote the Transformers movies and Star Trek: Into Darkness, I figured it wasn't for me. I don't think I was wrong, but maybe I'll give it a try if you say it's really good.

  • ||

    It's pure entertainment. It doesn't have a message or anything. I like the way they're unfolding the story so far and it's mildly creepy and gory for primetime network TV. The acting is on par with other one-hour dramas (some actors are more equal than others).

  • wareagle||

    you just have to be willing to suspend an unusual amount of disbelief and watch something for the sake of being entertained. Caught a couple of episodes; not sure about staying for the long haul.

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    But ST:ID was an AWESOME movie!

  • Bryan C||

    It might not be to your tastes. The premise really is audaciously ridiculous, but the show plays it straight and respects the material. In this genre that actually counts for a lot.

  • General Butt Naked||

    not the 18th century equivalent of a Navy SEAL.

    This has infected everything. Why must every protagonist/antagonist be expert at close quarters battle, hand to hand combat, urban/conventional military tactics, know four languages and be a physicist (or something).

    Every time I see a 105 lb chick knock a huge, SEAL-type ('cause, as stated, they're all SEAL types) dude out with a kick to the head my inner physicist winces and bleeds.

  • What Would Lou Reed Say||

    It's chick-flick material. Watch at your own risk.

    Of course, I'm DEAD, so you have to take that into account.

  • ||

    It's chick-flick material.

    I could agree with this. Is like a dark and weird chick flick.

  • GamerFromJump||

    Lit!Crane was also kind of a dick.

  • kinnath||

    I have been watching it with my wife. It is lightweight entertainment and better than average (but the average on the legacy networks ain't that great). The scripting has been uneven from week to week, and the overall story arc is muddled.

    To be clear, this is extremely tame compared to American Horror Story or True Blood. The show could be great if it was running on FX, but it isn't.

  • ||

    I wonder if the ratings don't stay strong if they would consider moving it to FX and spicing it up a bit.

    I think the scripting has been great. I expected every episode to strictly follow the headless horseman, but that hasn't been the case.

  • ||

    I really disliked last season of AHS, this season seems more promising, but I've only seen the first episode.

    I'll give Sleepy Hollow a shot. It sounds like it'll fall into my background TV category pretty neatly.

  • ||

    I DVR it, but I usually end up watching it live, because Mondays at 9 are kind of a dead zone.

  • kinnath||

    AHS is both preposterous and genius at the same time. Last year, they lost control of the show about half way through. They are dancing on a razor's edge this year.

    As for Sleepy Hollow, it is better than average network fare. I expect it may get better as the writers get a better feel of what long story arc they really want to tell.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Yeah, last episode was pushing the boundries. Surprised I haven't seen any bunched up panties about it in the media.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Referring to AHS

  • kinnath||

    murder is so pedestrian these days. But incest and bestiality are still fresh ground for plowing.

  • AlmightyJB||

    That show is so f'd up. I love it. Jessica Lange rocks.

  • AlmightyJB||

    I totally have a thing for Lily Rabe as well.

  • JParker||

    Relative to broadcast TV, it's good -- which isn't saying much. It did have a wonderful rant on taxation in, as I recall, the second episode which warmed my heart.

  • Acosmist||

    I argue that there is a greatest prime. See? You can just DO that. Doesn't make it true.

  • Raston Bot||

    Even Sanger's support for eugenics is widely misunderstood, says Bagge, who argues that she never embraced coercive schemes to enforce racial or ethnic purity.

    Her wikipedia page begs to differ.

  • Hugh Akston||

    How exactly? The wiki page says she thought the light-skinned races were superior, but she specifically rejected coercive measures aimed at minorities, and she wouldn't tolerate bigotry from her staff.

  • wareagle||

    if you think light-skinned races are superior, isn't that bigotry all by itself? Good to know she wouldn't tolerate it from the underlings; sounds like the ideal proggie.

  • Bryan C||

    Judging from Sanger's own writings, she "rejected" race-based coercive measures because she felt they would be counterproductive, not because she felt they were wrong or misguided.

    Sanger certainly had no qualms about coercive methods for other populations, less likely to catch on to what was happening:

    "The emergency problem of segregation and sterilization must be faced immediately. Every feeble-minded girl or woman of the hereditary type, especially of the moron class, should be segregated during the reproductive period. Otherwise, she is almost certain to bear imbecile children, who in turn are just as certain to breed other defectives. The male defectives are no less dangerous. Segregation carried out for one or two generations would give us only partial control of the problem. Moreover, when we realize that each feeble- minded person is a potential source of an endless progeny of defect, we prefer the policy of immediate sterilization, of making sure that parenthood is absolutely prohibited to the feeble-minded."

    Shockingly, it seems from her examples that she intuits a rather large overlap between feeble-mindedness and being born a Negro. Which is certainly convenient.

  • ThomasD||

    Sure, maybe she was a progressive/fascists, but she never went the Full Nazi.

    Never go the Full Nazi.

  • SugarFree||

    Nutbar bait. They must be getting ready to post something that would benefit from not having same few people screaming about abortion on every sub-thread.

  • ||

    Especially with Bagge's take on her. I'd say this thread was going to be interesting,'s not going to be. It'll be the same tedious bullshit. Well, flypaper is flypaper, I guess.

  • SugarFree||

    That's how monomania works.

  • ||

    I thought that was how obsession worked. Like you with Lena Dunham.

  • SugarFree||

    It's not really an obsession, more like rubbernecking to watch a car wreck.

  • Hugh Akston||


  • SugarFree||

    Also what she believes means that contraception should be banned. Wait... I never said that! DELETE DELETE

  • Tim||

    Everybody is stupid, except for me.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    The Beckerhead loves him some Margaret Sanger CT. According to him she was a progressive genocidal maniac like TR and WW.

  • Bryan C||

    Abortion is a messy half-measure. Real eugenicists preferred
    sterilization. With appropriate governmental encouragement directed toward defectives, and other undesirable populations.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Margaret Sanger just proves that once you go Catholic, you never really get the fuck over it. For further evidence, see Bill Maher/pretty much every "lapsed" Catholic.

    Meanwhile, Margaret was all for sterilizing the insane and the handicapped. As demonstrated in practice, the state plays rather fast and loose with the definitions of "insanity" and "mentally handicapped."

  • ||

    She was also in favor of reproductive licensing by the state. Lot for a libertarian to love there.

  • Floridian||

    It is startling how many people I hear advocate this.

    " you need a license to drive why not to reproduce."

    They always believe they will be on the right list. Sad.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    The licensure of driving is based on the idea that because TEH ROADZ are owned by the state, you need the state's permission to use them.

    To analogize reproducing to driving on TEH ROADZ suggests that your uterus belongs to the state.


  • ||

    The Onion classic: Point/Counterpoing U.S. Out Of My Uterus/We Must Deploy Troops To Jessica Linden's Uterus Immediately

    We recognize in principle Jessica Linden's sovereignty over the ovarian territory, but to prevent the loss of the reproductive system to a hostile power, we are prepared to do what we must, even if that means conducting a firebombing and strafing campaign that may result in full military hysterectomy. If we must destroy the uterus in order to save it, so be it.
  • Killazontherun||


  • Zeb||

    Yeah, it is a bit disturbing how often you hear that.

  • ||

    Tony stated he wanted birth control to be required about 8 or 9 months ago.

  • ThomasD||

    Doesn't he know it's too late for him?

  • Ymmarta||

    You need a license to marry.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "Margaret Sanger just proves that once you go Catholic, you never really get the fuck over it."

    She seems to have managed. As did other ex-Catholics like Voltaire and...that Austrian fellow.

  • Killazontherun||

    Curious though the horrible explanation he gives for the prevalence of the Eugenics movement, as if the Progressive Movement was less horrible than the Nazi or Communist ones. It wasn't. The death count from its policies, particularly as implemented through colonial measures, our own in the Philippines, for instance, was comparable to the two latter.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    -The death count from its policies, particularly as implemented through colonial measures, our own in the Philippines, for instance, was comparable to the two latter.

    Was William McKinley a Progressive?

  • Killazontherun||

    McKinley was the man caught in the middle. He was even reluctant to declare war on the Spanish. By TR, though, manifest policy of progressive can doism had caught on like hell fire.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    After the Spanish-American War McKinley lobbied the Senate to accept the Treaty of Paris annexing the Philippines. His arch enemy William Jennings Bryan strongly opposed the annexation. Bryan then ran on ant-imperialism about as much as he did on silver in the subsequent election. To pin this on 'the Progressives' you have to ignore that the nation's leading Progressive vehemently ran against occupation while the nation's leading conservative worked to negotiate and have ratified the treaty, and then oversaw most of the fighting of the insurgents. That is quite a stretch.

  • Mickey Rat||

    TR was a progressive too.

  • Killazontherun||

    Curious though the horrible equivocating explanation he gives for the prevalence of the Eugenics movement, as if the Progressive Movement was less horrible than the Nazi or Communist ones

  • PapayaSF||

    The death count from its policies, particularly as implemented through colonial measures, our own in the Philippines, for instance, was comparable to the two latter

    I don't think it was even close. 100 million+ Communist deaths, and the Nazi death camp toll alone was about 11 million. The Philippine-American War toll was about 220,000 Philippine combatants and non-combatants. There's no way the American colonial death toll comes even close to that of Nazis, much less Communists.

  • ||

    Even Sanger's support for eugenics is widely misunderstood


    Somehow I think this is unlikely.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Look, I appreciate Ms. Sanger for opposing abortion - though that wasn't exactly a courageous position to take at the time. I wonder how Planned Parenthood deals with the fact that its own founder took a position they associate with the War on Wimminz (TM)?

    And Bagge repeatedly refers to Sanger and others who want abortion to be criminalized as "anti-abortion." Didn't he get the memo that *everyone* is against abortion?

    As to sterilization, Bagge basically admits she was for it, saying in justification that it was a popular position in the 1920s (though the Catholic Church - Sanger's archenemy, opposed it vehemently). And Bagge denies that her position was based on racial discrimination. But it's not as if eugenics would be OK if only it were applied to all races! Here is what Sanger herself had to say:

    The following (A Plan for Peace, Margaret Sanger) was published in Birth Control Review (April 1932, pp. 107-108)...

    "...The main objects of the Population Congress would be:

    "...f) to give certain dysgenic groups in our population their choice of segregation or sterilization.

    "g) to apportion farm lands and homesteads for these segregated persons where they would be taught to work under competent instructors for the period of their entire lives."

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    So, kind of like...camps?

  • Jose Chung||

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Contrast this with a document published two years previously:

    "70. Public magistrates have no direct power over the bodies of their subjects; therefore, where no crime has taken place and there is no cause present for grave punishment, they can never directly harm, or tamper with the integrity of the body, either for the reasons of eugenics or for any other reason. St. Thomas teaches this when inquiring whether human judges for the sake of preventing future evils can inflict punishment, he admits that the power indeed exists as regards certain other forms of evil, but justly and properly denies it as regards the maiming of the body. "No one who is guiltless may be punished by a human tribunal either by flogging to death, or mutilation, or by beating.""

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    More pearls of wisdom from Sanger:

    "On July 4th, three revolutionists, Caron, Berg and Hanson, were killed by the explosion of dynamite--sacrificed because of their willingness to risk life for their convictions. This tragedy created a wonderful spirit of loyalty and solidarity among their comrades. It ought to have awakened the same spirit among all those who advocate the overthrow of the present system--at least among those agitators and leaders who urge direct and revolutionary tactics against the master class.

    "...It is time to learn to accept and exult in every act of revolt against oppression, to encourage and create in ourselves that spirit of rebellion which shall lead us to understand and look at the social situation without flinching or quavering or running to cover when any crisis arises. Not until we do create this spirit will the revolutionists ever be feared or even respected in America."

    The Woman Rebel, Vol. 1, No. 5, July 1914, p. 33

  • erizzow||

    anti-abortion? still a racist, Rosicrucian cunt.

  • KRoyall||

    This guy is equivocating and rationalizing to an absurd degree in order to conceal the fact Sanger was a heartless, misanthropic monster who had bought into the nonsense of Thomas Malthus. Why Reason would waste their time with this turd I have no idea.

  • ThomasD||

    You know who also bought into the nonsense of Malthus? Not only bought in, but absolutely needed Malthus in order to make his own arguments tenable?

    Yep, Charles Darwin.

    The seed was planted early. The truly ironic aspect is that Malthus created his argument as a means of opposing the Utilitarian ideas of William Godwin.

  • carminakaka||

    my friend's aunt makes $73/hr on the computer. She has been without a job for 10 months but last month her pay was $14848 just working on the computer for a few hours. view it

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