He charged that Planned Parenthood has an “obsession” and a “single-minded focus” on eliminating unwanted pregnancy, not preventing sexual activity.
This is very much in the heritage of its founder, according to Donovan. Though Sanger was unable to see some of the implications of her advocacy, she abandoned her family, took several famous men as paramours, and wrote a great deal about “the joys of unfettered sex.”
Planned Parenthood has “basically been a voice for sexual liberation, multiple partners, things like that, ever since,” Donovan said.
Sanger also strongly believed that there were inferior people and races and that the government had an “affirmative responsibility” to lessen their numbers or limit their participation in public life, he noted.
Her mission probably included sexual liberation and feminism for public policy, he said, but “it was more about weeding out what she called ‘human weeds’.” She was a fan of nativism and ethnic superiority. Sanger was also “very harsh” in some of her characterizations of African-Americans.
Sanger targeted “anybody struggling in the economy at the time,” Donovan added. These included blacks, recent immigrants, and lower-class Irish, Italians, Eastern Europeans and Gypsies. Her targets included anyone from a race of a low intelligence as measured by tests of the time.
“It took a long time for Planned Parenthood to get significant influence,” Donovan continued. “They probably had much more active resistance than pro-life groups did at the beginning.”
While Planned Parenthood was rejected by religious organizations and most government officials, who believed that the government should not be planning the nation’s families, the organization was persistent.
“They developed massive mailing lists,” Donovan explained. “They worked one-by-one with religious denominations which were already fracturing on church doctrines on sexuality. They worked very carefully with the medical profession.”
Planned Parenthood’s true breakthrough came on the issue of population control. The organization persuaded the State Department and the military establishment that the government would have to deal with overpopulation in foreign lands to ensure American security and worldwide stability.
This approach won them access for domestic and international programs and won converts including Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush when he was in Congress.
(Story continues below)
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While other organizations have played a role in the debate about birth control and abortion, Planned Parenthood has been “the longest and most consistent supporter” of legal abortion on request and puts up the strongest resistance to pro-life laws and regulations. It is present in almost every state and provides nearly one out of every four abortions.
While some of the organization’s supporters contend that access to birth control and abortion saves money, Donovan claimed this rationale was “specifically crafted to keep penny-pinching conservatives on board with what Planned Parenthood does.”
The argument was effective in the 1970s and probably took additional strength after the Reagan administration. Since 1992, Planned Parenthood’s funding has grown every year.
However, this economic argument ignores the large-scale effects of changing public views about marriage, sexuality and family.
“Economic growth comes through stable families,” Donovan said, urging people in the pro-family and pro-life camps to provide holistic solutions.
“We’re really about building families to where people can have the trust and the relationships that so often now just seems to be missing. Because we are collectively as a society viewing sexuality as an avenue for personal fulfillment, a way to exploit others, and there are really no rules of the road.”