November 23, 2011

likely nice facts, but badly interpreted

Eugenics - the science of improving the human population via selective breeding or reproduction - is not a concept confined to past centuries and decades, nor to locales outside the United States.

That's the finding of recent research by University of Cincinnati historian Wendy Kline, who will present a case study on the topic - a case study that examines the use of the controversial contraceptive injection, Depo-Provera, as a eugenic tool - on Nov. 11 at a conference titled "The Study of Eugenics: Past, Present and Future" to be held in Uppsala, Sweden. Her presentation is titled "Bodies of Evidence: Activists, Patients, and the FDA Regulation of Depo-Provera."

It's research that is particularly timely given that recent national news coverage has featured North Carolina's current plans to compensate surviving victims of forced sterilizations that took place there from the 1920s to the 1970s.


Kline's research into the debate surrounding Depo-Provera in the 1970s and 1980s began when she was visiting the Smith College Women's History Archive where she found a large box of materials still unprocessed and not yet catalogued. This was among 50 to 60 boxes from the National Women's Health Network.

She recalled, "The box contained hundreds of individual files, each detailing a woman's difficulties with the side effects of Depo-Provera or detailing how she had not been informed of those side effects or detailing how she had been given the injection without her consent or by means of manipulation. This coercion, lack of informed consent and testing of the drug has obviously been gathered together in preparation for a class-action suit by the National Women's Health Network that had never gone forward."

But the collection did provide Kline with a rich source of material of examining the history of this contraceptive and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's public board of inquiry on Depo-Provera held in 1983.

"The use of Depo-Provera captures all of the controversy of this century regarding controlling fertility and who's ultimately making the decision about who gets to reproduce. My research looks at coercion, risks not fully understood and how arguments were made for and against Depo-Provera at the time," she explained.

For instance, it was in the Depo-Provera hearings in Washington that the manufacturer and those in favor of the drug had to first contend with the greater organizational powers and force of the feminist movement - but where that feminist movement had to argue its case by focusing narrowly on the flaws in the scientific research methodology applied when testing Depo-Provera.

In other words, those combating the use of Depo-Provera could not make a case against the drug based on morality or sentiment even though it could easily have been argued that this was a case of eugenics since the testing of the drug in the 1970s at Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital Family Planning Clinic involved mostly black women in public assistance.

Instead, because of FDA strictures related to evidence supplied at its board of inquiry hearings, opponents of the drug had to channel their arguments on the science then available on Depo-Provera.

"Of course," said Kline, "It was and is very difficult to separate science from the society that produced it. There was a reason, given the understood risks of Depo-Provera, that its testing was done on poor women in the U.S. and on women in developing countries."

Still, at the Depo-Provera hearings of 1983, those against the use of Depo-Provera were able to introduce the concept that the FDA's established cost/benefit analysis of a drug should include quality of life issues and that dismissing female patient's complaints about crippling side effects was not just "sexist," it was bad science.

Another outcome of the FDA 1983 inquiry into Depo-Provera and the publicity surrounding the hearings was the first national conference on black women's health held in Atlanta in 1983.

The larger message, according to Kline, is that eugenics is more than simply an embarrassing mistake of the past. The popular belief that technology and regulation of sexual fertility (?) would lead to healthier, stronger, more self-reliant population carried over in the 1970s, '80s and even today.

Coercive Birth Control Used As A Form Of Eugenics

it is a salad of arguments ;( 

November 20, 2011

Planned Parenthood in the Archives

the American Birth Control League (ABCL) over leadership issues in 1928. In 1938, the Clinical Research Bureau (the first doctor-controlled, legal birth control clinic) which she opened in 1923 merged with the ABCL to become the Birth Control Federation of America. In 1942, its name was changed to the less feminist, more family-friendly Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a name Sanger loathed.

E Katz correction to Birth Control in the Cabinet: Planned Parenthood in the Archives Posted by Jill Lepore

contains a nice slide show

How Birth Control And Abortion Became Politicized


Jean H. Baker book

As for her connection with the eugenics movement, Baker examines Sanger’s beliefs (along with others who espoused eugenics, such as Woodrow Wilson and Oliver Wendell Holmes) and concludes that she “embraced eugenics as a female cause with a female solution,’’ focusing primarily on a woman’s right to bring only healthy and wanted children into the world. However one parses this, Sanger’s insistence that, as she wrote, “[a] woman’s body belongs to herself alone’’ still sounds revolutionary.

MARGARET SANGER: A Life of Passion By Jean H. Baker Hill and Wang, 349 pp., illustrated, $35


Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger

November 5, 2011

A Woman with a Plan: The Real Story of Margaret Sanger

Author image
by Ellen CheslerThe Roosevelt Institute

Birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger is back in the news this week thanks to GOP presidential candidate and abortion rights opponent Herman Cain, who claimed on national television that Planned Parenthood, the visionary global movement she founded nearly a century ago, is really about one thing only: “preventing black babies from being born.” Cain’s outrageous and false accusation is actually an all too familiar canard -- a willful repetition of scurrilous claims that have circulated for years despite detailed refutation by scholars who have examined the evidence and unveiled the distortions and misrepresentations on which they are based (for a recent example, see this rebuttal from The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler).
It’s an old tactic. Even in her own day, Sanger endured deliberate character assassination by opponents who believed they would gain more traction by impugning her character and her motives than by debating the merits of her ideas. But when a presidential candidate from a major U.S. political party is saying such things, a thoughtful response is necessary.
So what is Sanger’s story?
Born Margaret Louisa Higgins in 1879, the middle child of a large Irish Catholic family, Sanger grew into a follower of labor organizers, free thinkers, and bohemians. Married to William Sanger, an itinerant architect and painter, she helped support three young children by working as a visiting nurse on New York’s Lower East Side. Following the death of a patient from a then all-too-common illegal abortion, she vowed to abandon palliative work and instead overturn obscenity laws that prevented legal access to safe contraception.
Sanger’s fundamental heresy was in claiming every woman’s right to experience her sexuality freely and bear only the number of children she desires. Following a first generation of educated women who had proudly forgone marriage in order to seek fulfillment outside the home, she offered birth control as a necessary condition to the resolution of a broad range of personal and professional frustrations.
The hardest challenge in introducing Sanger to modern audiences, who take this idea for granted, is to explain how absolutely destabilizing it seemed in her own time. As a result of largely private arrangements and a healthy trade in condoms, douches, and various contraptions sold under the subterfuge of feminine hygiene, birth rates had already begun to decline. But contraception remained a clandestine and delicate subject, legally banned under obscenity statutes, and women were still largely denied identities or rights independent of their relationships with men, including the right to vote.
By inventing the term “birth control,” Sanger brought the practice -- and by implication, women’s entitlement to sexual pleasure -- out into the open and gave them essential currency. She went to jail in 1917 for opening a clinic to distribute primitive diaphragms to immigrant women in Brooklyn, New York, and appeal of her conviction led to a medical exception that licensed doctors to prescribe contraception for reasons of health. Under these constraints she built a network of independent local women’s health centers that eventually came together under the banner of Planned Parenthood. She also lobbied for the repeal of federal obscenity statutes that prevented the legal transport of contraception by physicians across state lines, which were struck down in federal court in 1936.
Sanger sought and won scientific validation for various contraceptive methods, including the birth control pill, whose development she supported and found the money to fund. In so doing, she helped lift the religious shroud that had long encased reproduction and secured the endorsement of contraception by physicians and social scientists. From this singular accomplishment, which some still consider heretical, a continuing controversy has ensued.
Sanger always remained a wildly polarizing figure, which clarifies the logic of her decision after World War I to jettison “birth control” and adopt the more socially resonant term “family planning.” This move was particularly inventive but in no way cynical, especially when the Great Depression brought attention to collective needs and the New Deal created a blueprint for bold public endeavors.
Some have falsely charged that Sanger defined family planning as a right of the privileged but a duty or obligation of the poor. To the contrary, she showed considerable foresight in lobbying to include universal voluntary family planning programs among public investments in social security. Had the New Deal incorporated basic public health and access to contraception, as most European countries were then doing, protracted conflicts over welfare and health care policy in the U.S. might well have been avoided.
Having long enjoyed the friendship and support of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Sanger also had ample reason to believe the New Dealers would fully legalize and endorse contraception as a necessary first step to her long-term goal of transferring responsibility and accountability for voluntary clinics to the public health sector. What she failed to anticipate was the force of opposition family planning continued to generate from a coalition of religious conservatives, including urban Catholics and rural fundamentalist Protestants, that held Roosevelt Democrats captive much as today’s evangelicals have captured the GOP.
The U.S. government would not overcome cultural and religious objections to public support of family planning through its domestic anti-poverty and international development programs until the late 1960s, after the Supreme Court protected contraceptive use under the privacy doctrine created in Griswold v. Connecticut. At this time, Planned Parenthood clinics became major government contractors, since there were few alternative primary health care centers serving the poor. Today, one in four American women funds her contraception through government programs, many of them still run by Planned Parenthood -- a number likely to rise under the Affordable Care Act.
Sanger’s eagerness to mainstream her movement explains her engagement with eugenics, a then widely popular intellectual movement that addressed the manner in which human intelligence and opportunity is determined by biological as well as environmental factors. Hard as it is to believe, eugenics was considered far more respectable than birth control. Like many well-intentioned reformers of this era, Sanger took away from Charles Darwin the essentially optimistic lesson that humanity’s evolution within the animal kingdom makes us all capable of improvement if only we apply the right tools. University presidents, physicians, scientists, and public officials all embraced eugenics, in part because it held the promise that merit would replace fate -- or birthright and social status -- as the standard for mobility in a democratic society.
But eugenics also has some damning and today unfathomable legacies, such as a series of state laws upheld in 1927 by an eight-to-one progressive majority of the U.S. Supreme Court, including Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis Brandeis. Their landmark decision in Buck v. Bell authorized the compulsory sterilization of a poor young white woman with an illegitimate child on grounds of feeble mindedness that were never clearly established. This decision, incidentally, was endorsed by civil libertarians such as Roger Baldwin of the ACLU and W.E.B. Dubois of the NAACP, both of whom Sanger counted among her supporters and friends.
For Sanger, eugenics was meant to begin with the voluntary use of birth control, which many still opposed on the grounds that the middle class should be encouraged to have more babies. She countered by disdaining what she called a “cradle competition” of class, race, or ethnicity. She publicly opposed immigration restrictions and framed poverty as a matter of differential access to resources like birth control, not as the immutable consequence of low inherent ability or character.
As a nurse, Sanger also understood the adverse impacts of poor nutrition, drugs, and alcohol on fetal development and encouraged government support of maternal and infant health. She argued for broad social safety nets and proudly marshaled clinical data to demonstrate that most women, even among the poorest and least educated populations, eagerly embraced and used birth control successfully when it is was provided.
At the same time, Sanger did on many occasions engage in shrill rhetoric about the growing burden of large families of low intelligence and defective heredity — language with no intended racial or ethnic content. She always argued that all women are better off with fewer children, but unfortunate language about “creating a race of thoroughbreds” and other such phrases have in recent years been lifted out of context and used to sully her reputation. Moreover, in endorsing Buck v. Bell and on several occasions the payment of pensions or bonuses to poor women who agreed to limit their childbearing (many of whom enjoyed no other health care coverage), Sanger quite clearly failed to consider fundamental human rights questions raised by such practices. Living in an era indifferent to the obligation to respect and protect individuals whose behaviors do not always conform to prevailing mores, she did not always fulfill it.
The challenge as Sanger’s biographer has been to reconcile apparent contradictions in her beliefs. She actually held unusually advanced views on race relations for her day and on many occasions condemned discrimination and encouraged reconciliation between blacks and whites. Though most birth control facilities conformed to the segregation mores of the day, she opened an integrated clinic in Harlem in the early 1930s. Later, she facilitated birth control and maternal health programs for rural black women in the south, when local white health officials there denied them access to any New Deal-funded services.
Sanger worked on this last project with the behind-the-scenes support of Eleanor Roosevelt and Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of the National Council for Negro Women and then a Roosevelt administration official. Their progressive views on race were well known, if controversial, but their support for birth control was silenced by Franklin’s political handlers — at least until he was safely ensconced in the White House for a third term, when the government rushed to provide condoms to World War II soldiers.
Sanger’s so-called Negro Project has been a source of controversy first raised by black nationalists and some feminist scholars in the 1970s and later by anti-abortion foes. Respecting the importance of self-determination among users of contraception, she recruited prominent black leaders to endorse the goal, especially ministers who held sway over the faithful. In that context, she wrote an unfortunate sentence in a private letter about needing to clarify the ideals and goals of the birth control movement because “we do not want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.” The sentence may have been thoughtlessly composed, but it is perfectly clear that she was not endorsing genocide.
America’s intensely complicated politics of race and gender has long ensnarled Sanger and all others who have sought to discipline reproduction. As many scholars of the subject in recent years have observed, much of the controversy proceeds from the plain fact that reproduction is by its very nature experienced individually and socially at the same time. In claiming women’s fundamental right to control their own bodies, Sanger remained mindful of the dense fabric of cultural, political, and economic relationships in which those rights are exercised.
In most instances the policies Sanger advocated were intended to observe the necessary obligation of social policy to balance individual rights of self-expression with the sometimes contrary desire to promulgate and enforce common mores and laws. She may have failed to get the balance quite right, but there is nothing in the record to poison her reputation or discredit her noble cause. Quite the contrary.
The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. may have put it best in 1966, when he accepted Planned Parenthood’s prestigious Margaret Sanger Award and spoke eloquently of the “kinship” between the civil rights and family planning movements. Here is what he said, since it bears repeating:
There is a striking kinship between our movement and Margaret Sanger’s early efforts. She, like we, saw the horrifying conditions of ghetto life. Like we, she knew that all of society is poisoned by cancerous slums. Like we, she was a direct actionist; a nonviolent resister. She launched a movement which is obeying a higher law to preserve human life under humane conditions. Margaret Sanger had to commit what was then called a crime in order to enrich humanity, and today we honor her courage and vision; for without them there would have been no beginning.

November 2, 2011

Eugenics, or Scientific Racism, in American Education

One of the evil fruits of the tree of evolution is the idea of eugenics, the notion that human beings can be bred to perfection by the same methods used to breed perfect cattle. Since evolution itself reduces man to the level of animal, it is not surprising that eugenics was adopted by many leaders among the educational elite as the means of solving man’s social problems. But eugenics itself poses a problem: what does one mean by human perfection, and whose definition of perfection should be adopted?
The founder of the eugenics movement, Sir Francis Galton (1822-1911), cousin of Charles Darwin, found his model of perfection in the British elite. But he was painfully aware that the birthrate of the elite was far lower than that of what he considered to be the inferior classes. In this he saw a great danger to civilization. He concluded that ways had to be found to encourage the fertility of the superior stock and to discourage the fertility of the inferior stock.
In order to determine which individuals had superior traits, Galton created an anthropometric laboratory in 1884 for the measurement of man, with the hope that by means of tests he could single out those individuals who should survive. However, Galton realized that physical measurements alone were not enough to determine the criteria he needed. He began searching for ways to investigate psychological differences.
In 1886, he was introduced to James McKeen Cattell, a young American who had just completed two years of study in the laboratories of Prof. Wilhelm Wundt, the world’s leading experimental psychologist, at Leipzig University in Germany. It was there that Cattell conducted his reaction-time experiments which became the “scientific” basis for teaching children to read by the whole-word method. Cattell spent the next two years working in Galton’s lab at Cambridge University where he used experimental techniques to investigate the mental differences among normal individuals. He coined the term “mental test.” Cattell used Galton’s framework of physical and physiological anthropometry in which to conduct his experiments on individual differences.
Born in 1860, Cattell graduated in 1880 from Lafayette College (Easton, Penn.) where his father, a Presbyterian minister, was president. While at college, Cattell studied the ideas of Auguste Comte, the French philosopher who stressed the authority of scientific knowledge over religious or metaphysical forms of thought. This philosophy, known as Positivism, led Cattell to adopt a new “religion” of science.
In 1882-83 Cattell studied at Johns Hopkins University where his classmate was John Dewey and their professor was psychologist G. Stanley Hall. Hall was the first American to study at Leipzig under Prof. Wundt, and he encouraged Cattell to get his doctorate under Wundt at Leipzig.
After completing his studies in Germany and his experiments at Cambridge, Cattell returned to the United States where he became professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1891, Cattell moved to Teachers College, Columbia University, where as professor of experimental psychology he built the nation’s leading department of psychology. He trained many young psychologists who then fanned out across American academia to teach the new gospel of psychology. In 1904, Cattell arranged for his friend John Dewey to come to Columbia as professor of philosophy.
At Teachers College, Cattell’s star pupil was Edward L. Thorndike, who espoused the principles of eugenics and became America’s leading educational psychologist. He devised a new theory of learning based on conditioning techniques used in animal training. His book, Animal Intelligence (1898) laid the groundwork for the school of behaviorism.
Both Cattell and Thorndike were active in applying the principles of eugenics to education. Like Dewey, they held an organic view of society. Socialist Dewey wrote in his famous My Pedogogic Creed:
“I believe that the individual who is to be educated is a social individual and that society is an organic union of individuals…. Examinations are of use only so far as they test the child’s fitness for social life and reveal the place in which he can be of most service and where he can receive the most help.”
This was clearly the educational philosophy of a collectivist state, not a Constitutional republic in which the purpose of government is to secure the God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of the individual. The purpose of education in a free society is to provide the individual with the skills needed to make his way in the adult world, not to determine where he can be ”of most service.”
Inherent in Dewey’s creed is the notion that individual human worth is determined by social usefulness, a concept that is taught today in the lifeboat and fallout shelter survival exercises in which students must decide who to throw out of the lifeboat or kill in the fallout shelter. Dewey also wrote in that Creed:
“[T]he teacher is engaged, not simply in the training of individuals, but in the formation of the proper social life....In this way the teacher always is the prophet of the true God and the usherer in of the true kingdom of God.”
It was inevitable that those who believed in eugenics would see society in racial terms and impose racist ideas on American education. The veneer of science made racism respectable among the social-radical progressives who were supposedly only interested in the future good of mankind.
Eugenics conferences were held in the United States to spread the new spirit of scientific racism within academia. G. Stanley Hall, who had become president of Clark University (Worcester, Mass.) in 1889, encouraged his students to develop tests to assess mental capacity. One of his students, Lewis Terman, devised a mental test that was to become the most famous of them all, one that measured the I.Q., or Intelligence Quotient. The I.Q. expressed the ratio of a child’s mental age to his chronological age, multiplied by one hundred. Terman believed that intelligence was a matter of genetic inheritance and that genetic superiority could therefore be determined by this test.
The Anglo-American eugenics movement grew in influence on both sides of the Atlantic. In England it was embraced by Fabian socialists because they believed that an ideal society could be produced only by “superior” people. In America, it drew such progressives as Margaret Sanger, Gifford Pinchot, David Starr-Jordan, Charles M. Eliot, Emma Goldman, and such conservatives as Herbert Hoover and Charles Davenport. Sanger was motivated by her belief in eugenics to start the birth-control movement.
The eugenics movement persuaded Congress to pass new immigration laws to curtail the influx of "inferior" peoples from Eastern and Southern Europe. In 1921, the Second International Congress of Eugenics was held at New York’s Museum of Natural History. Its president was Henry Fairfield Osborn, who wrote in the program:
The right of the state to safeguard the character and integrity of the race or races on which its future depends is, to my mind, as incontestable as the right of the state to safeguard the health and morals of its people. As science has enlightened government in the prevention and spread of disease, it must also enlighten government in the prevention of the spread and multiplication of worthless members of society, the spread of feeble-mindedness, of idiocy, and of all moral and intellectual as well as physical diseases.
It was this philosophy of government which enabled Congress to pass Prohibition, which made it illegal to drink alcoholic beverages. And we all know what a social disaster Prohibition turned out to be. Likewise, Mayor Bloomberg of New York believes that it is government’s highest duty to determine what people should be allowed to eat. It sounds benign and sensible to a statist. But nothing in our Constitution gives government such powers.
However, there was nothing benign about scientific racism which affected more important aspects of life than just eating habits. To eugenicist Thorndike, blacks were inferior and had to be treated differently in education, and he was responsible for changing “certain schools for Negroes from a predominantly literary to a predominantly realistic and industrial curriculum.”
In other words, as a result of “scientific research,” pupils were now no longer being judged as individuals, but as members of different racial groups. Scientific racism became an integral part of progressive education policy.
In 1933, Hitler’s new National Socialist (Nazi) government adopted a Eugenic Sterilization Law that resulted in the compulsory sterilization, within three years, of 275,000 people judged “unfit” by Hereditary Health Courts. In 1939, on the eve of World War II, the Nazi regime inaugurated a policy of euthanasia for the mentally diseased or disabled. Some 70,000 patients were shot and gassed to death. All of this was prelude to the mass extermination of Jews that would take place during the war years.
But all of that is in the dim past. In America today, eugenics has been replaced by multiculturalism, affirmative action, new liberal programs to help minorities advance economically, and special education in the public schools to help the mentally challenged (once dubbed "useless human beings") get a government education. The schools are now dumbing-down everyone, and functional illiteracy is now epidemic. In other words, we’ve gone from one evil to another. Scientific racism rejected Biblical religion, and today’s progressives reject the supernatural. American culture is in a state of total philosophical chaos. The future of America is uncertain because of the raging battles among competing philosophies. Only by repudiating the statists and returning to the sane political philosophy of the Founding Fathers will this nation be able to reconstruct an American future in liberty and economic freedom for all.

Written by Sam Blumenfeld

1 ocean - 1 method

Margaret Sanger Papers in the national spotlight

by erialcp
Although Margaret Sanger died in 1966, debates about her legacy still shape how politicians talk about the important issue of abortion rights. On Sunday, October 30, Republican candidate for president Herman Cain gave an interview on CBS's "Face the Nation". He claimed that if voters wanted to understand the real meaning of abortion in America, they needed to "go back and look at the history and look at Margaret Sanger's own words." But Cain's knowledge of Sanger seems more rooted in convenient myth than in historical fact. The phone has been ringing off the hook today at the Margaret Sanger Papers with journalists and commentators calling to find out the real history.
Cain claimed that early Planned Parenthood clinics were build predominately in black neighborhoods as part of a plan of racial extermination. He said, "So if you go back and look up the history--secondly, look at where most of them were build, 75 percent of those facilities were built in the black community-- and Margaret Sanger's own words, she didn't use the word 'genocide' but she did talk about preventing the increasing numbers of poor blacks in this country by preventing black babies from being born."
Although Sanger advocated the politics of eugenics that were popular in her era, Planned Parenthood in no way encouraged abortion among black communities. In fact, none of Sanger's clinics performed abortions before Roe v. Wade in 1973.  Racism in the world of family planning tended to express itself in the reverse: blacks were sometimes excluded from clinics offering birth control services. Here at the Sanger papers, we frequently write about the issue of race in our newsletters and publications. Cathy Hajo, associate editor of the Margaret Sanger papers, has recently addressed this in her book, Birth Control on Main Street (2010)< /em>. There were a handful of clinics that serviced specifically black communities, but these received little assistance from white activists. Cain's suggestion that 75% of clinics were in black neighborhoods is completely unfounded. "Whatever the activists' personal beliefs about race may have been," writes Hajo, "there was no grand program to exterminate nonwhites or the poor."
This is not the first time Cain has distorted the history of birth control in this way in order to advance his political views. In April of 2010, Cain made claims about Planned Parenthood's alleged genocide plan that earned PolitiFact's "Pants on Fire" status, meaning that they found no truth to the claim whatsoever. In fact, PolitiFact said, "Cain’s claim is a ridiculous, cynical play of the race card."
Sunday's interview is no different. In the Washington Post today, Glenn Kessler decries Cain's rewriting of birth control history, relying on the research of Hajo and others to discredit this misuse of the past for politically expedient ends. CNN and have also called the Sanger Papers looking for more informati on, and we expected to see pieces from them soon.