As confederate monuments are taken down and blackface episodes of television shows are shelved, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York is now publicly addressing a racist part of its history. On Tuesday (July 21), the health organization announced it was removing Margaret Sanger’s name from one of its New York City locations because of her “harmful connections to the eugenics movement,” according to a statement.
The location, in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood, will now be called the Manhattan Health Center. “The removal of Margaret Sanger’s name from our building is both a necessary and overdue step to reckon with our legacy and acknowledge Planned Parenthood’s contributions to historical reproductive harm within communities of color,” Karen Seltzer, chair of the board at Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, said in a statement. “Margaret Sanger’s concerns and advocacy for reproductive health have been clearly documented, but so too has her racist legacy.”
Sanger, a founder of the national organization, was a nurse and reproductive rights advocate who, in 1916, opened the first U.S.-based birth control clinic in Brooklyn. Reports The New York Times:
But her legacy also includes supporting eugenics, a discredited belief in improving the human race through selective breeding, often targeted at poor people, those with disabilities, immigrants and people of color.
Planned Parenthood of Greater New York is the largest affiliate of the national organization. Its Chief Equity and Engagement Officer Merle McGee told The Times the decision “arose out of a three-year effort to tackle racism internally and to improve relationships with groups led by Black women who have been wary of Planned Parenthood’s origins.”
She continued, “The biggest concern with Margaret Sanger is her public support for the eugenics medical philosophy which was rooted in racism, ableism and classism.”
In the wake of the protests sparked by the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, institutions are removing the names of men and women whose policies or practices were racist. This includes Princeton University which removed Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public policy school and a residential college because of the former president’s segregationist views.