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Defending life from the moment of conception

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The Life and Crimes of Margaret Sanger: Part I

Posted by Matthew McCusker on 4 July 2012

On this blog we have followed the development of eugenic theory and practice from its birth in Darwinism and Malthusianism, its emergence as an influential movement through advocates such as Francis Galton and H.G. Wells and the devastating consequences of the implementation of these ideas by birth controllers such as Marie Stopes.

Now we have reached the point where we must consider a woman whose contribution to the movement has been one of the most considerable. She was the organising genius of what was to become, in her lifetime, one of the largest and most powerful organisations committed to the destruction of human life that the world has ever seen, the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

We must now consider Margaret Sanger's campaign for birth control, abortion and eugenics.

Margaret Sanger was born Margaret Higgins on 14th September 1879 to a large New York family; her father was interested in atheism and radical politics. In 1902 Margaret Higgins married an architect named William Sanger who was heavily involved in left-wing politics. She soon joined the Socialist Party and embraced the most extreme ideas of the radical movement.

Her assertions of 'sexual freedom' and consequent acts of adultery destroyed her marriage; she left her husband in 1913 and they were formally divorced in 1921. In 1914 she began publishing her own newspaper called The Woman Rebel which adopted the slogan 'No Gods, no Masters'. In one article she proclaimed that "rebel women claim the following rights: the right to be lazy, the right to be an unmarried mother, the right to destroy."

Sanger soon faced prosecution for sending lewd and indecent articles by mail. She left her children in the care of friends and moved to London. While in London she formed a close relationship with Havelock Ellis, whose study of homosexuality (which encompassed 'inter-generational' sexual relations) suggested that it was a normal expression of sexuality rather than a disorder, as it had always formally been understood1.

Ellis was an early member of the Fabian Society and served as Vice-President of the Eugenics Education Society and as President of the Galton Institute. He introduced Sanger to Rosicrucianisim, an esoteric cult, which introduces its initiates to 'secret wisdom'. Sanger's fascination with the occult extended to attempting to communicate with spirits2. Her frequent trips to London over the succeeding decades became opportunities to begin and renew acquaintanceships, and adulterous relationships, with like minded dissidents, including H.G. Wells whose advocacy of eugenics we have previously discussed.

In October 1915 Margaret Sanger returned to America to face the charges that had been brought against her. In a brilliantly organised speaking campaign she was able to gain much media support for her cause. She opened her first birth control clinic in New York, choosing an area with a large immigrant population. Two weeks later she was arrested and sentenced to thirty days imprisonment for distributing 'obscene' materials and for 'prescribing dangerous medical procedures.'

Shortly after her release she launched The Birth Control Review in order to try to change public opinion and win more support for her cause. In 1922 she contracted a civil marriage with a millionaire named James Noah H. Slee. She demanded a pre-nuptial agreement which in effect gave her permission to continue her adulterous practices. Sanger was always able to find wealthy backers, in the future she was to receive financial support from funds such as the Ford, Mellon and Rockefeller Foundations. Now, in the early 1920s and with access to Noah Slee's fortune, Sanger was well positioned to make her dreams a reality.

We may conclude our account of Sanger's early life by noting that, while she has a reputation today as a respectable pioneer of birth control, she was in fact a political extremist who, with her involvement with the occult and flagrant transgression of moral norms, aimed at the subversion of the society in which she lived. We will see in succeeding posts that many aspects of her life and work have been hidden and ignored by those who wish to portray her as 'mainstream'.

The abortion industry has always wanted to portray itself as a mainstream medical service. In fact, by pursuing the barbaric slaughter of innocent human life, it is taking Sanger's radical subversion to its logical termination, namely, the destruction of that most fundamental of human values, love and respect for human life.

1. The precise nature of the relationship between Ellis and Sanger is difficult to determine.
2. Sanger's involvement with the Rosicrucians and with the occult is well documented in her own personal papers. See for example the references in Woman of Valour: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America, p. 524

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