Will a $275 million donation to Planned Parenthood really help black women in America?

Will a $275 million donation to Planned Parenthood really help black women in America?

On March 23, Mackenzie Scott, the former wife of Jeff Bezos, announced an unprecedented gift of $275 million to the national office of Planned Parenthood and 21 of its affiliates across America. 

Planned Parenthood’s media release welcomed the donation as “the largest gift from a single donor in Planned Parenthood’s history”. Their CEO, Alexis McGill Johnson, pledged to apply these funds to improve health equity, particularly for black women, by eliminating racial and structural barriers in the communities where Planned Parenthood works:

“We know Black women experience disproportionately higher rates of maternal mortality, STIs, and will be most hurt by the loss of abortion access in the South and Midwest.”

Women’s Forum Australia has previously highlighted the propagandistic nature of claims by ostensibly charitable abortion providers who use the language of “choice” or “sexual and reproductive health” to cloak their activity in a blanket of unassailable virtue. In light of Planned Parenthood’s established historical connections to the eugenics movement, their current promise to use Scott’s money to “help” black communities, deserves closer scrutiny.

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, Planned Parenthood leadership scrambled to preserve its organisational reputation by distancing themselves from their founder, Margaret Sanger, on the grounds that she was racist. The implication is that a modern, non-racist Planned Parenthood will deliver assistance to black communities that is qualitatively different from the programs that Sanger initiated. 

But the charge of racism understates and deflects from the deeper problem, which is that Sanger was a eugenicist and, as Sanger herself insisted: “the campaign for birth control is not merely of eugenic value, but is practically identical in ideal with the final aim of eugenics.” 

If we believe that targeted efforts to deliver “birth control” to racial minorities is not just eugenics by another name, it can only be because we have failed to understand the economic rationale for the eugenics movement.

As Dr Elisabeth Taylor has recently explained, within the philosophical framework that eugenicists operate, “helping the poor” and “targeted population reduction” are just different ways of saying the same thing. It is a plain fact of economics that, by reducing the number of children in poor communities, you help meagre resources stretch further. Once you have decided to reduce population numbers, eugenics – selecting “the fit” and deselecting “the unfit” – is only the next logical step.

Rather than providing charitable resources to the poor, the eugenicist’s version of compassion changes the other side of the equation by reducing family size in poor communities.

Because eugenics can easily disguise itself in noble-sounding language, it is particularly important to scrutinise the claims of “philanthropists” closely.  How confident can we be that Planned Parenthood is sincerely committed to the welfare of black women? Can we be sure it is not simply pursuing its own agenda to deliver the services that it thinks will most benefit black communities? How is it possible that an organisation dedicated to “birth control” can now propose to minister specifically to black communities without actually delivering Sanger’s eugenicist agenda? 

Allegations that it is conducting a program of racially-targeted genocide in plain sight have dogged Planned Parenthood for decades. In 2015, Ben Carson stated his belief that the disproportionate density of Planned Parenthood clinics in predominantly black and hispanic neighborhoods reflected a deliberate effort to reduce the black population. His statement was supported by subsequent research into the question (see here and here). Naturally, Planned Parenthood’s Director of Black Leadership and Engagement, Nina Martin-Robinson, rejected this suggestion saying: 

"Black women are free to make our own decisions about our bodies and pregnancies, and want and deserve to have access to the best medical care available. Any insinuation that abortion is Black genocide is offensive and infantilizing.”

However, the idea that Planned Parenthood champions women’s freedom is also part of a well-established deception. Women’s Forum Australia has previously exposed the dishonesty of abortionists’ claims to sincerely honour female autonomy, evidenced by their participation in programs of coerced abortion in developing countries. 

Purely from a business perspective, we can observe that the entire gearing of Planned Parenthood’s multi-billion dollar business model requires a continual supply of young women’s bodies to sustain its different operations. At one end of the supply chain, Planned Parenthood offers “comprehensive sexuality education” (CSE) programs that encourage young girls into early sexual activity, while minimising the attendant risks to their long-term health. This expands the market for contraceptives and produces the problems of venereal disease and unplanned pregnancies that allows Planned Parenthood to sell its other products: pharmaceuticals and abortion. Obviously, if Planned Parenthood were genuinely interested in female autonomy, they would be providing women with a full range of services, including support to keep and provide for their babies. 

Whether it is because Planned Parenthood wants to support their business model or because eugenics continues to animate a wider population-shaping agenda, the effect is the same; according to CDC data, black babies in America are aborted at 3.8 times the rate of white babies. In light of this, Planned Parenthood’s intentions to dedicate Scott’s money particularly to “serving the needs” of black women takes on a sinister aspect. 

Further, there are solid historical grounds for looking sideways at Planned Parenthood’s “deep and trusted connections with communities”. Both Sanger and the organisation she founded have a documented track record of tasking black leaders with the job of allaying community concerns and encouraging engagement with programs that result in fewer black babies being born. In a 1939 letter, Sanger explained the strategy:

“We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities … We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”

Similarly, when talk of “zero population growth” in the 1960s threatened to startle the horses, Planned Parenthood elected their very first black board chairman Dr Jerome H. Holland. When abortion was legalised from 1973, Holland was responsible for rolling out these new services to a black population encouraged by his presence to trust Planned Parenthood’s philanthropic posturing. 

Again, in 1978, Planned Parenthood elected its first black female president, Faye Wattleton, who vowed to restore “to the poor” access to abortion under the Medicaid program. During her 14-year term, Wattleton helped legalize the sale of the RU-486 abortion pill and grow Planned Parenthood’s budget from $90 million in 1978 to $384 million in 1990. Wattleton agreed with Sanger that the appointment of a black woman had the desirable effect of allaying 

suspicion about Planned Parenthood’s operations in the black community: 

“I’m in a watchdog position on these issues and no one should assume I’ve been co-opted. What better way is there to guard against those types of abuses?” 

But Wattleton also expressed the view – perfectly in line with eugenicist philosophies – that the black community should be more concerned about quality of life than “increasing our numbers.” The thesis that Dubois, Holland and Wattleton were cynically used as judas sheep to sell out their communities is compelling. 

So it is ironic to notice that Planned Parenthood’s “connection with the community” appears to have been a big part in Scott’s recent decision to endow them so bounteously. Her blogs convey the worthy hope that by financially supporting “leaders from historically marginalised groups fighting inequities” – she particularly mentions inequity due to “skin colour, sexual orientation, gender, or zip code” – she might help them bring lasting change to the “systems” that generate that inequity. 

“When our giving team focuses on any system in which people are struggling, we don’t assume that we, or any other single group, can know how to fix it. We don’t advocate for particular policies or reforms. Instead, we seek a portfolio of organizations that supports the ability of all people to participate in solutions … Each non-profit it will list was selected through a rigorous process, and has a strong track record of serving under-supported needs.” 

Although Scott and her team of assessors conduct rigorous research before selecting the beneficiaries of their largesse, once the money is donated, there are no strings attached and no need to account for how it is spent. “Because our research is data-driven and rigorous, our giving process can be human and soft.” Along with her money, Scott vests her complete confidence that the beneficiary will use her donation wisely to help the underprivileged. 

But how careful was Scott’s research? Did she take into account the potentially sinister nature of Planned Parenthood’s “deep connections'' into black communities? Or perhaps, like Wattleton and Sanger, Scott believes that racially targeted population reduction is consistent with compassion for those struggling with “systems” that create inequity? 

The endowment of an organisation with such a troubling and extensive connection to eugenics should concern everyone who cares about the genuine autonomy of women. As Women’s Forum Australia CEO, Rachael Wong, has previously said:

“Instead of pouring millions of dollars into an organisation mired in scandal for its abortion practices, brave philanthropists concerned about women’s health should consider putting their money towards initiatives that promote real choice for women, address the real issues, and protect them from further, real harm.”