July 17, 2014

Margaret Sanger: A Champion of Reproductive Freedom?

Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, is often revered by advocates for the advancements she made in reproductive freedom. Many see her as a hero and a fearless leader for the advancement of women. Planned Parenthood’s website proclaims that: “Women's progress in recent decades — in education, in the workplace, in political and economic power — can be directly linked to Sanger's crusade and women's ability to control their own fertility.”1

The highest award that Planned Parenthood gives is the Margaret Sanger Award. This year, when Nancy Pelosi accepted the Margaret Sanger Award, she spoke of Sanger saying, “Margaret Sanger understood that women should never be silent – not when their fundamental rights are at stake.  She knew that positive change seldom came to those who waited; it came to those who worked and struggled, who acted, agitated, and fought for equality.  She recognized, as your theme declares this evening, that women are ‘stronger together.’”2

But Margaret Sanger’s legacy is a little more complicated than it would initially seem. For example, Margaret Sanger refused to condemn the “female hygiene” products that were starting to be marketed in the 1930s. These products were marked as a way of preventing pregnancy, but in reality, the majority of these products did nothing to prevent pregnancies. The manufacturers were taking advantage of women’s fears of pregnancy to sell their products to gain higher profits. Not only were the products ineffective, but they could also be quite dangerous, risking permanent damage to a woman’s body, and even death. Margaret Sanger refused to take a stance against these manufactures, despite the fact that they were contributing to the injury and death of women. She was quoted as saying that the reason she would not condemn them was “they have not lagged behind like the medical profession but have gone ahead and answered [a] growing and urgent need.” 3 But by  not speaking out against these manufacturers, it appears that Margaret Sanger  seemed more interested in promoting her ideology than she did in ensuring the safety and well-being of the women affected by it; she had forsaken the women that she claimed to desire to help.
Lysol produced one of these "feminine hygiene products"

Margaret Sanger even spoke out against maternity centers where “Such women are to be visited by nurses and to receive instruction in the hygiene of pregnancy, to be guided in making arrangements for confinements to be invited to come to the doctor s clinics for examination and supervision. They are we [sic] are informed, to receive adequate care during pregnancy at confinement and for one month afterward.”4 These maternity centers that were sponsored by private charities existed to help poor women with their pregnancies by providing them with proper health care and education. Margaret Sanger believed that these centers did women a disservice, saying the programs were “not merely superficial and near sighted. It conceals a stupid cruelty, because it is not courageous enough to face unpleasant facts. Aside from the question of the unfitness of many women to become mothers, aside from the very definite deterioration in the human stock that such programs would inevitably hasten, we may question its value even to the normal though unfortunate mother. For it is never the intention of such philanthropy to give the poor over burdened and often undernourished mother of the slum the opportunity to make the choice herself to decide whether she wishes time after to time to bring children into the world.”4 She saw these programs not only as useless, but cruel because they did not provide birth control for these women. Instead of recognizing the merits of these centers and the obvious need for them, she harshly criticizes them for not conforming to her ideology. It is interesting to parallel this view with the relationship between Planned Parenthood and pregnancy resource centers today. Planned Parenthood has often criticized pregnancy resource centers because they are not in line with their ideology, because they refuse to refer for abortions or provide birth control. There seems to be a refusal to admit the value of these centers or acknowledge any good that they might be doing because the centers refuse to embrace the same ideology that Planned Parenthood advocates.

Finally, and possibly most disturbing, is the eugenic agenda to which Margaret Sanger adhered. Margaret Sanger pushed the use of birth control to contribute to the eugenic ends she idealized. In Sanger’s autobiography, she writes about a lecture she gave on the seven circumstances in which birth control should be practiced. The third circumstance was “when parents, though normal, had subnormal children,” the fourth was “when husband and wife were adolescent,” and the fifth was “when the earning capacity of the father was inadequate.”5 She found that these circumstances produced less desirable children, or that the parents were not fit to be parents.

Margaret Sanger is seen as one of the biggest proponents of ‘reproductive freedom.’ Yet it seems that she doesn't truly desire reproductive freedom for all - only for those she saw as able parents (meaning the middle or upper, white class). In her autobiography she elaborates saying “anyone, no matter how ignorant, how diseased mentally or physically, how lacking in all knowledge of children, seemed to consider he or she had a right to parent.”5 Sanger seems to believe that only certain people have the right to parent. So she promotes birth control for those who she does not see as able to parent according to her standards. She does not advocate parenting classes, or attempt to help those “lacking in all knowledge of children,” but instead believes that they simply should not be parents, which is where birth control comes in.

The quotes above indicate that Margaret Sanger was not, in fact, a true advocate of reproductive freedom. Margaret Sanger was a diehard eugenicist, believing the reproduction should be limited to those who she saw as able parents. This eugenic mindset is evident throughout her writings and work.

The legacy that Margaret Sanger left was not one of dedicated care for all women. Instead, she pushed her ideology at all costs. Planned Parenthood continues to follow in the footsteps of their beloved founder,  as shown in  Live Action’s latest videos [warning-explicit] exposing the danger in which Planned Parenthood puts children. 

And what about those maternity centers that Margaret Sanger saw as useless and even cruel? These are the groups and organizations that promote true women’s freedom. Groups that strive to empower women to take charge of their own lives, by helping to give them the tools to do so. Groups like the Women’s Care Center, the Guiding Star Project, Hannah’s House, Seton Home, and so many more. There is a better way to help moms and babies. We should be supporting these organizations in their view of authentic women’s freedom through whatever way we can, be that volunteering, donating, writing letters, or praying. Because being pro-life is being pro-woman. I believe in women’s freedom. Do you?

  1. http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/who-we-are/history-successes#early
  2. http://www.democraticleader.gov/newsroom/press-releases/pelosi-remarks-accepting-margaret-sanger-award-planned-parenthood-annual-gala/
  3. Tone, Andrea. Controlling Reproduction: An American History. Wilmington, DE: SR, 1997. 228-29. Print.
  4. Sanger, Margaret. The Pivot of Civilization. Elmsford, NY: Maxwell Reprint, 1969. 114-16. Print.
  5. DuPont, Kathryn. Margaret Sanger an Autobiography. Lanham: Cooper Square Press, 1999. 193-195. Print.

July 2, 2014

Why the Hobby Lobby Decision is Good for Women (Part 2)

Almost immediately after the Hobby Lobby decision, there was a huge uproar. People were dismayed to find that corporations could deny women the fundamental right to healthcare. How could a corporation impose its beliefs on women in a way that affected their health?

By some of the tweets and the comments, you would think that Hobby Lobby had declared that they do not believe women should have access to health care at all. But this is not the case. Hobby Lobby, and corporations like it, object to the HHS mandate, the mandate that ensures coverage of contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs and devices. It is worth noting that many of the organization objecting to the mandate already cover contraception when it is being used for non-contraceptive reasons.

But here is the problem. When did all of women’s health become dependent on access to birth control? By giving into that definition, aren’t we letting ourselves be defined solely by our reproductive capacities?

Then there is the fact that “women’s health” professionals, gynecologists, have become lazy diagnosticians. If a woman walks into a gynecologist’s office, no matter what the issue, she will be offered a prescription for birth control. I saw three different ob-gyns about gynecological issues. None of them really listened to me, but were very eager to get me on birth control. When I asked why I was being prescribed this, none of them really had an answer. They did not know what was wrong with me. But they figured, whatever it was, the pill would fix it.

Except, the pill doesn’t really fix anything.  All it does is coveriup the symptoms of an underlying condition. Fortunately for me, I was able to see a Napro ob-gyn who diagnosed me with endometriosis. [Learn more about Naprotechnology here]. I was able to have surgery to remove the endometriosis, and hopefully, preserve my fertility. None of the other doctors I had seen considered that I might have endometriosis. Actually, when I had raised the concern to one doctor, he told me it was not possible for me to have it.

When did women’s health advocates become so lazy? When did doctors stop caring about diagnosing a patient’s problems and just started covering them up? Shouldn’t women’s health be about actually understanding a woman’s body and what is going on inside of her, rather than just tossing her a “band-aid” pill with tons of side effects, that just allows the problem inside to fester?

There is a better way. As I stated above, I found a doctor who specialized in NaPro technology. NaPro technology is a women's health science that monitors and maintains a woman's reproductive and gynecological health. It provides medical and surgical treatments that cooperate completely with the reproductive system. Instead of rejecting a woman’s fertility, this system cherishes it and does all that is possible to preserve it. The doctors I have found who practice this system actually listened to my concerns and responded to them, instead of just throwing a generic medicine at me and hoping it would make me feel better.

We need to be promoting real women’s health. Women’s health that understand women as whole persons. Women’s health that is not boiled down to whether or not a business pays for a woman to suppress her fertility. Fertility is not a disease and it should not be treated as such.  We need to promote women’s health  that does not see the way a women’s body normally functions as in need of fixing. We need health care professional who listen to our concerns and respect our beliefs. That is true care for women's health.

July 1, 2014

Why the Hobby Lobby Decision is Good for Women (Part 1)

If you were down at the Supreme Court yesterday awaiting the Hobby Lobby decision, you might have noticed something interesting. The overwhelming majority of Hobby Lobby supporters were women.


I thought Hobby Lobby was trying to oppress women.

They were trying to ban birth control.

They were trying to bring us back to the 1950s.

They were enforcing a patriarchal society where men make all the decisions about women’s reproductive choices.

Oh, there's me, looking very oppressed by the decision
But, then, why were most of the Hobby Lobby supporters women? I mean, even the mainstream media had to use pictures of women celebrating the decision when it came out. 

However, if you wandered over the pro-choice side, you saw something interesting. At least half of the supporters were men. The person leading their chants was a man. At one point, before he started to lead a chant, he leaned over to the women in front of him and said “do you want to be referred to as women or girls?” I had more than one pro-choice man get two inches from my face and scream about access to birth control.

But please, do tell us how Hobby Lobby is trying to oppress women.

Oh look, the all-female legal team! 
Despite what the media, or Planned Parenthood may lead you to believe, this decision was a good decision for women.  Despite one’s personal beliefs on contraception, our First Amendment guarantees the right to exercise our religious beliefs. To claim that women care more about their employer paying for their birth control than our own religious freedom is demeaning to all women. Over a third of the plaintiffs who have filed suit against the HHS mandate are women. The mandate hurts women business owners who were being forced to choose between their religious convictions and their own business. Thankfully, the Supreme Court recognized that this was an unfair burden to place on business owners.

It is also problematic to refer the HHS mandate as a huge advancement for women’s equality, as supporters of the mandate often do. The subtext is that if a woman wants to be successful or equal in the workforce, she must suppress her fertility, which is viewed as a hindrance to her goals and her fulfillment. Women are sent the message –  that there is something wrong with their bodies that needs correcting if they are to be equal. To be equal to men, they must become like men.

This view is demeaning to women. We are being told that if we even want to have the opportunity to achieve equality, we should be contracepting. We are told that if we do become pregnant, whether planned or unplanned, somehow we are unsuccessful, in effect we have failed.  If we choose to pursue motherhood, we are clearly not pursuing success – at least not as the government defines it.

If the government truly saw the choices for and against motherhood as equal, there would be more support for women who become pregnant. Contraception and abortion-inducing drugs and devices are offered for free through the HHS mandate, but not all pregnancy-related costs are covered. By only offering full coverage of options promoting the prevention or interruption of pregnancy, the government is sending a subtle but clear message about what it means to be a woman and what a woman's success looks like – and it doesn’t include her fertility.

So who declared the real war on women?

Stay tuned for the next blog post, where we will discuss what true women's healthcare should look like.

June 18, 2014

Liberals are people too.

Spending the summer in DC, it can be hard not to get sucked in the hyper-politicization of the atmosphere. It seems that everywhere I go, someone is bashing the opposite political party. I find this to be very unsettling. 

Perhaps it is because I do not feel that I fit squarely into any political party. Perhaps it is because I think that energy is better spent on focusing on real solutions, instead of blaming the opposite political party for the lack of progress. Perhaps it is because I just really do not like confrontation.

But one of the most unsettling things to me is hearing the way in which pro-life conservatives talk about liberals. I want to make it clear, that this bashing occurs on both sides of the aisle. But I believe that those who call themselves pro-life should hold themselves to a higher standard.

Being pro-life is about respecting the inherent dignity of each individual. Recognizing the good and redeeming qualities in each other. Being pro-life means that you respect the person, even if you do not agree with their views. 

This is what I am talking about. This is bad.

Making wide-sweeping comments about "liberals" is not only generalizing and labeling people, but oftentimes, these comments are untrue. Making statements like “liberals don’t care about people,” not only does not help our cause, but hurts us. The fact is, that they do care about other people. Everyone cares about other people. People care deeply. Some just have misguided vision of what it means to empower people, specifically women.

This is also ignoring the fact that not all pro-lifers fit into the neat box of "conservative" and not all "liberals" are pro-choice. This kind of inflammatory language is what alienates those non-traditional pro-lifers. (Check out Secular Pro-Life and Life Matters Journal -- both awesome groups doing awesome things.) What we need to realize is that being pro-life is not solely a conservative issue. It's not just a political issue. Being pro-life is a human issue, one that transcends party lines. 

Still bad.

So next time you think about making a blanket statement like “liberals hate babies,” stop for a moment and think. We are called to stand against injustice and to call out this injustice. But this does not mean demeaning and degrading people. Criticize the policy, not the people.  If you call yourself pro-life, be truly pro-life. This means respecting others, even when you vehemently disagree with them. 

June 11, 2014

Inequality Begins Before Birth

I recently went to a conference hosted by the Century Foundation’s Bernard Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative, the Roosevelt Institute, and the Academic Pediatric Association. The conference was entitled “Inequality Begins At Birth: Child Poverty in America.” There were a number of speakers with diverse opinions on how to solve the child poverty crisis that we have in America. Everyone agreed that this was one of the top social problems in America, and that we need to fix it. Different policies were suggested that could better aid the children of our country. Ultimately, it was agreed that education was one crucial way to do this. Many statistics were presented on how poverty affects people of color in a disproportionate manner, and how we as a society have a responsibility to fix this.

I attended this conference, because I believe that this is an issue that is at the very heart of the pro-life issue. To be truly pro-life, we cannot just seek to outlaw abortion. We can, and we should, have this as a goal, but we must also do what we can to support policies and legislation that will aid abortion vulnerable women. Policies that value the inherent dignity of the individual and seek to empower those in poverty to be able to better their lives. Through support of policies such as paid family leave, subsidized child care, and the Pregnant Workers Safety Act, we are saying yes to life through saying yes to the flourishing of families. These types of policies are important. A politician cannot call himself pro-life and then refuse to consider these types of policies that would help women, children, and families. This is an area in which bipartisanship should be easy.


Something I saw as glaringly missing from the conference was any discussion of how inequality truly begins before birth. One commentator made a comment to that effect, but it was quickly brushed aside without extrapolation because it was clearly something that they did not want to talk about. Senator Cory Booker, who gave an impassioned speech about inequality and his deep passion for helping children in poverty, also made comments about the need to support ‘family planning organizations’ such as Planned Parenthood. Perhaps Senator Booker is unaware that the most dangerous place for an African American child is in the womb. Perhaps he is unaware that 80% of Planned Parenthood clinics are located in minority neighborhoods. Perhaps he is unaware that the number of abortions that are performed on African Americans is disproportionally high. Perhaps he is unaware of the racist sentiments of Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger. Maybe he never learned about Planned Parenthood’s “Negro Project.”  Because it seems to me that this is something that is worth talking about. Because the conference title was wrong. Inequality does not begin at birth. Inequality begins before birth. Abortion statistics show this inequality. They show that African American babies are aborted at rates of up to five times that of white babies. They show that today, abortion kills more African-Americans, per year, than heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, accidents, homicides, suicide and cancer- combined.

Check out this short video from the Radiance Foundation to learn more!

Senator Booker quoted a civil rights activist during his speech saying, “We who believe in freedom cannot rest.”  This rings true for us. We must continue to fight for freedom and equality throughout all stages of life- including the stage before birth. 

May 29, 2014

Event Idea: Sunshine Kits for Finals Week

Is there a more stressful time for college students than finals week? Students cope in different ways. Some literally sleeping in the library for days on end, so they don’t lose their coveted spot. Some sleep in their bed all day, trying to ignore the reality that finals are approaching. Some color-code their schedules, budgeting out every hour of the day to maximize studying potential.

The fact is that finals are stressful for everyone. So consider having your club bring a little bit of ‘sunshine’ to people during this stressful time. Building a culture of life means building a culture of love. So this a great opportunity to show a love of life during a hectic time!  Create “Sunshine Kits” that will brighten the recipient’s day, even if just for a little bit.

Get a bright colored bag and put in whatever you want! Candy is always appreciated by college students, as is an extra pen or pencil. Think about putting in small snacks, like peanut butter cookies. We included a prayer for finals inside as well. Then tie it all together with some ribbon and a message from your club! Then go hand them out in a high traffic area: I suggest the library. Then all you need to do is watch the smiles appear on stressed students’ faces. Now, go spread some sunshine! :)

December 4, 2013

Event Idea: Rose Garden

For a number of years, our pro-life club put up a ‘Cemetery of the Innocents’ on our campus. The Cemetery, comprised of simple white crosses, sought to raise awareness, commemorate the lives that have been lost to abortion and promote life-encouraging resources for women who may have experienced or are considering an abortion.

This year we did something a little different. We chose to display a garden of roses in place of the cemetery.  Each white rose represents lives lost due to abortion. The other roses represent those who have suffered emotionally, spiritually and physically because of abortion, including mothers, fathers, families and friends. The garden is centered around a cross, the source of hope and healing for all.

With these roses, we sought to raise the same awareness and commemoration, while simultaneously extending a deeper invitation to love. The flowers demonstrate the fragility, beauty and value of every human life. We acknowledge there are many students on college campuses who have been affected by abortion, both directly and indirectly. The display is a loving way of reaching out to acknowledge those wounds and offer hope for healing. It is an invitation to the entire community to join together in promoting a greater respect for the dignity of all life.

I believe the unique difference in this type of display is that it commemorates all those who have been affected by abortion. The day the garden went up, I got an email from a senior student on campus. She wrote to me saying as she biked past the signs she read, “For all those affected by abortion. I was now apart of this memorial; my affair had been commemorated. The pain flooded back, along with a peculiar anger.” This woman had not had an abortion, but she had been personally affected by it, just as we all have been affected by abortion, whether we know it or not. When she saw the garden, she recognized this. Although initially her reaction was one of anger and grief, through reaching out via email, she was able to engage in further conversation which allowed her to more fully confront what had happened. This is what we sought to do with this garden. Although the wide reaching impact of abortion is not a comfortable fact, this is a reality. It is only through confronting this uncomfortable reality that we are able to take steps forward.

 On college campuses, it is important to remember that many women and men are suffering from the wounds of abortion. Although we do not want to keep silent on this issue, it is important to keep these people in mind when doing pro-life activism. Truth needs to be spread with love, not merely facts or statistics. The roses commemorate the pain of these individuals while providing an opportunity for discussion for the rest of campus.

How to make the garden:


-Silk flowers
-Bamboo sticks
-Green tape
-Wooden cross

1. Cut the bamboo sticks to about 18 inches.
2. Cut the flowers so there is only one flower and one stem.
3. Take a red and white flower and tape them to the bamboo stake.
4. Choose a formation for the garden and stake the flowers in the ground.


Be sure to have signs explaining the display. Our club sent a letter to our school newspaper explaining the new display.