Remembering MLK as a Reproductive Justice Advocate

Cristina Page wrote this piece last year, here is the intro.

“The anti-contraception, anti-choice movement has, for years, attempted to portray Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood, or as they say “Klan Parenthood,” as racist. On Martin Luther King Day, I thought it would be useful to draw our attention to the words of Dr. King himself on the woman and the organization that the pro-lie establishment attempts to cast as opposed to his vision. As you’ll see, nothing could be further from the truth. The following speech was written in 1966 by Rev. Martin Luther King and given by his wife, Coretta Scott King, on the occasion of receiving the The Planned Parenthood Federation of America Margaret Sanger Award.”

I really love that Cristina posts the whole speech to check out Cristina’s article go here.

And check out our week of Roe v. Wade events here in Louisville KY.

3 thoughts on “Remembering MLK as a Reproductive Justice Advocate

  1. I don’t take the point of this post to be a defense of Sanger so much as a look into the teaching of The Good Reverent Doctor on the subject of family planning. At least that is what I came away with after reading the speech on the link.

    And I have yet to see anyone in the reproductive justice movement sporting a “Sanger Was Right” button. I think we can all agree with the excellent points you make, kc, but I don’t think anyone is defending Sanger.

    That may be one of the best and beautiful differences between the sides of this struggle: we own that Sanger used racist tactics to get what she wanted. We acknowledge the failings and attempt mightily to correct those failures. The anti’s distance themselves from the Paul Hills and Scott Roederers as lone wolves, far removed from what they are really all about and in turn do nothing to correct the construct that empowered these men to rise up and murder doctors and escorts that disagreed with them.

    As such, I think it is important that we remain aware of who and what Sanger was. And I appreciate the detail and citing for my own personal education, kc.

    Take care

  2. It is very attractive to want to protect the history of Planned Parenthood and Margaret Sanger from the rhetoric of anti-choice right wing folks who would only utilise the bodies and histories of Black people to attempt to restrict all people’s access to legal, safe, accessible, on-demand abortions. To ignore, however, Sanger’s and PP’s alliance with and acceptance of eugenics is to also use the histories and bodies of Black people and indeed all people of color to make a rhetorical and political point.

    Sanger’s contributions to Feminist Movement are complex and nuanced; she achieved much that was highly beneficial to many women and she also spoke in defence of eugenics, citing birth control as a means to control undesirable populations (see the article the Medicalization of Domestic Violence in INCITE!’s Color of Violence Anthology). While it can easily be assumed that her motives were political in allying herself with eugenicists to fight for the legalisation of birth control, it is still true that Sanger sacrificed the bodies and reproductive autonomy of some women – specifically women of color – to provide non-coerced access to birth control for some women – specifically white women. And in fact, it may not be so easy to assume that Sanger was not herself an earnest proponent of eugenics: “In Puerto Rico in the 1960’s birth control pills three to four times the hormone dosages of today’s birth control pills were tested on women without their consent. Many were killed and injured while being used as guinea pigs…Margaret Sanger…went to Puerto Rico to support ‘administering officials'” (INCITE! anthology).

    Harriet Washington in her excellent book Medical Apartheid devotes a chapter to the eugenic campaign to control Black reproduction that devotes more time and space than I have to Sanger’s arguments in favor of eugenics and her use of stereotypes of Black people to garner support for the legalisation of birth control.

    Ultimately my point is that the history of the movement for reproductive justice in this country is more complex than noting that King supported Sanger’s. If we are truly to create a broad based, multi-racial movement for reproductive justice we must confront the mistakes of our history as we celebrate our victories. We must acknowledge that Sanger did in fact employ a racist eugenicist rhetoric that contributed to an enormous amount of trauma in communities of color, just as we must acknowledge that reproductive justice does not only mean keeping abortion legal. An inclusive movement for reproductive justice must confront its racist past, and work to ensure that racism doesn’t continue in our organising today. I believe this can only happen with an honest confrontation of the short comings of our leaders and heroes.

    Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice

    Medical Apartheid: the dark history of medical experimentation on Black Americans from colonial times to present

    Color of Violence and INCITE! anthology

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