Lies from the Religious Right Target Abortion and Equality

Faith leaders teach that lying is a sin. So why do religious-righters distort the truth so shamelessly in pushing their extreme political agenda? You can see at least two big examples in Texas right now.

One of the biggest falsehoods religious-right groups are pushing right now is the claim that Margaret Sanger founded Planned Parenthood to help exterminate the African-American population through abortion and other methods. Today the right-wing Texas Pastor Council, a political front group run by odious hate-monger Dave Welch, tweeted a partial quote from Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger:

“We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.”

We won’t help spread this nonsense by posting the full tweet here, but you can see it at the link above. The tweet includes a photograph and a phone number activists can call to demand that the Smithsonian Institution remove a bust of Sanger.

But wait. Did Sanger want to exterminate African Americans? Of course not. And PolitiFact has already debunked that claim as a ridiculous lie. It did so more than four years ago when checking a similar claim from Herman Cain, then a Republican presidential candidate. Cain had claimed that Planned Parenthood was guilty of genocide for planning to “kill black babies before they came into the world.” PolitiFact investigated the evidence and ruled Cain’s comment as a “Pants on Fire” lie.

The PolitiFact article even looked at the quote the Texas Pastor Council is pushing in today’s tweet. From PolitiFact:

Those who think Sanger wanted black genocide cite the Negro Project. But even their strongest evidence, a passage from a letter she wrote advocating that organizers recruit black ministers for the project, does not come close to proving a genocidal plot.

Sanger wrote that “We don’t want 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.”

But her correspondence shows this sentence advocates for black doctors and ministers to play leadership roles in the Negro Project to avoid misunderstandings. Lynchings and Jim Crow laws gave blacks good reason to be wary of attempts to limit the number of children they bore. In Harlem, she hired a black doctor and social worker to quell those fears.

The facts of the Negro Project suggest nothing more genocidal than a public health project. Black leaders DuBois and Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of the National Council of Negro Women, and the pastor of the influential black Abyssinian Baptist Church were members of its advisory council. First lady Eleanor Roosevelt was supportive.

For Sanger to launch a genocidal plot behind their backs and leave no true evidence in her numerous writings would require powers just shy of witchcraft.

Really, calling the Negro Project a genocidal plot defies common sense. Why would Sanger try to destroy a race of people by giving them access to the very thing she thought could make life better?

So the Texas Pastor Council — which includes folks who surely know that lying is a sin — purposely failed to include the full quote from Sanger and the context for that quote. Pants on fire, indeed.

But the mistruths don’t end there. Welch and his Texas Pastor Council are also leading the effort to repeal Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). They’ve based their campaign on another distortion: that the ordinance will allow men to go in to public restrooms to assault women and girls. But two years ago PolitiFact ruled that the same claims about San Antonio’s similar Non-Discrimination Ordinance — claims pushed by Welch’s religious-right buddy Jonathan Saenz of the far-right group Texas Values, an affiliate of Focus on the Family — were plainly false.

That won’t stop Welch and his cronies from pushing the same falsehood in Houston, of course. Their entire campaign is based on misleading voters to promote fear, hate and the freedom to discriminate. One could say that their campaign offers a pretty good case for why the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance is a good law. Click here to learn more about defending HERO.

HERO and similar measures protect everyone against discrimination, regardless of race, sex, age, military status, sexual orientation, gender identity and other characteristics. Opposing discrimination and treating everyone as equal under the law represent core American values. But religious-right activists challenge that value — and want to further restrict women’s access to abortion and other reproductive health care services — with an avalanche of lies.

15 thoughts on “Lies from the Religious Right Target Abortion and Equality

  1. This is a good column. Radical Right-wing Religionists hate social activists/progressives/humanists/nontheists who are successful in making major changes in national policies on subjects that religionists think belong to them, such as birth control and abortion. She has been hated, disparaged, and decried for decades for her work. Like Creationists, extreme Religionists lie about individuals and their beliefs and actions to try to damage their reputations. Many biological scientists, social activists, family planning advocates, etc. have experienced this. Just look today at the lies being perpetrated against Planned Parenthood (founded by Sanger) by the Religious Right with their edited secret videos. If the right-wing actually had evidence or good reasons to denounce scientists and progressive social activists for their activities they would use those rather than lie about them.

    Of course Sanger never advocated Black genocide or even Black sterilization, but her views were distorted by others with anti-progressive and choice agendas who were willing to lie about them. Sanger was a negative eugenicist who advocated that the poor and “feeble-minded” avoid having children (using birth control, of course) they could not support and raise properly, the latter group by coercion if necessary. However, she denounced euthanasia and Nazi genocides (extremely-coercive and genocidal negative eugenics). The distinction is lost on almost everyone when her views are distorted with lies.

    Ethical, responsible, non-coercive eugenics is practiced today although the e-word is not use. Family planning, genetic counseling, amniocentesis genetic screening, selective abortion of fetuses with incurable debilitating genetic diseases, etc. are all perfectly normal and accepted practices (except by radical religious extremists who try to push their perverted values on the rest of society using the political power of the state).

    Also, positive eugenics is extremely common although again the e-word is never used. Dating services that match compatible partners, marriage between individuals with similar social, intellectual, and religious beliefs, family planning education, etc. are all examples of non-coercive positive eugenics.

  2. Margaret Sanger was an evil wicked person who was steeped in eugenics. She would have been a great assistant to a wicked Nazi, Dr. Josef Mengele.

    Where there is blood there is life and I can’t see abortion as anything but murder. Now, People are agents of will so I am not going to march or stop a person from excercising their God given ability to choose. I pray that they choose life but if they don’t so be it. I won’t treat them with disdain or anything like that.

    1. While we all rightly condemn eugenics today and clearly see the evil that it led to with the Nazis, the PolitiFact article explains that society in Sanger’s time saw it differently. In fact, the article notes that leaders like Theodore Roosevelt and W.E.B. DuBois also supported the eugenics movement. Unless you’re ready to liken them all to Mengele as well, condemning Sanger for her position on it seems pretty simplistic and sounds more like a political than a moral position.

    2. Dan is right Mr. Amazed. Unfortunately, scientific knowledge about genetics, heredity, and so forth were nowhere near as advanced as they are today. For lack of a better term, a “philosophy” about heredity that turned out later to be extraordinarily false was shared by vast numbers of people in the United States and Europe—just like the idea of substitutionary atonement in the Protestant faith. Famous people, infamous people, and ordinary people thought its hereditary tenets were true—just like “smoking causes lung cancer.” Sanger was just as much a dupe of this ignorance (widely believed to be concrete truth) as were all the other liberals and conservatives of that day and time. Only, in this particular case, it turned out that “smoking did not really cause cancer.” Sanger was indeed wrong—but not because she was evil when an alternative good was obviously available for her to take—she just bought into the prevailing hereditary philosophy of that time in human history. I had an uncle who was born in 1909, he was an avid reader and he believed strongly in all these false hereditary ideas up until his death in 1993—because these were what he had been taught in the public schools and colleges of Tennessee when he was a young man in the 1920s. People with an anti-abortion agenda use this to smear people like Ms. Sanger—while conveniently forgetting to mention the historical context that surrounded her beliefs. This is a form of lying and deceit that so-called “Christians” use to advance their agenda to turn the United States into a Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical dictatorship like the Islamist regime in Iran.

    3. “Where there is blood there is life?”

      So how is menstruation not murder too? Or me nicking my chin when I shave? Yeah, those erythrocytes die. And an ovum dies once a month for younger women. What’s the difference there if “blood is life?”

    4. Where there is blood there is life? There are far too many people who agree with you, but until you are a fertile woman SHUT UP YOU HAVE NO BUSINESS GETTING INVOLVED.

      One hundred percent of all abortions are caused by men–that’s how things work in this world. No sperm, no fertilization of an egg.

      Men annoy the shit out of me to no end. When YOU can bear a child let me know, I want to see you go through “only nine months” of pregnancy.

      It is the law of the land that abortion is LEGAL. Please, get off my planet.

  3. “Amen” to Dan, Charles, ‘Coragyps’ and Steven.
    – I refer y’all to two excellent books: “Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion” by Jean Baker (interviewed by Diane Rehm on 15 Nov 2011), and (great title!) “Preaching Eugenics” by Christine Rosen.
    – To amplify on Steven’s point: Sanger was in favor of “negative eugenics” via contraception for those with hereditary problems. She never favored “positive eugenics”, the killing of those deemed “defective”, which was espoused by Nazis well AFTER Sanger had been distancing herself from eugenics.
    – Early on, eugenics was eagerly espoused by many religious leaders – even Jewish, some Catholics, and especially protestants most eager to purify humanity to hasten the return of their “Christ”.
    – The myth of Sanger as “racist” has been well enough debunked by now (except to the believe-what-you-will demonstrators in front of Planned Parenthood clinics, as well as Herman Cain and Ben Carson).
    – Ben Carson needs to be reminded that one of his Seventh-Day Adventist role-model heroes, Dr. John H. Kellog (of corn flake fame) was a leading proponent of eugenics for many years.

    1. Ariel. My dad was a Type 1 diabetic that was first diagnosed in 1938. His diabetes specialist doctor in Nashville gave him a copy of a thin, black book about diabetes that was written for all diabetic patients of that time and published by Eli Lilly & Company in Indianapolis, one of the first makers of commercial insulin from the beef pancreas. One of the sections in that book is a discussion on the generic and hereditary characteristics of diabetes—as they were known at that time. I read parts of this book when I was growing up. It preached that diabetics should practice these same voluntary eugenics that Steve discusses here. For example, it recommended that two Type 1 diabetic married people should avoid having children entirely because each child was certain to be a Type 1 diabetic who—from the perspective of that time—would lead a miserable life of sickness. Just sayin’.

      I too wonder why people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ spend so much of their time deceiving and lying through their teeth about all sorts of different things. One would think that their real God is Satan from the way they behave.

  4. I guess I need to be even more explicit. Family planning, birth control, prenatal genetic screening using amniocentesis, selective abortion of fetuses with genetic abnormalities, marriage and dating matching services, genetic screening of parents with known genetic abnormalities before conception, and many other medical practices are all examples of ethical eugenic practices (although the term “eugenics” is not usually used to describe them today). These eugenic practices are voluntary, non-coercive, and highly beneficial. Individuals who choose not to use them are doing themselves and society a disservice.

    What we rightly condemn are coercive, non-voluntary eugenic practices, including forced abortions, forced sterilization, involuntary euthanasia, and genocide. To its great shame, forced sterilization of “feeble-minded” and “naturally-criminal” individuals was practiced in the United States early in the 20th century. The practice was sanctioned by well-known scientists, medical experts, politicians, and even prominent clergymen. It should be emphasized that an equal number of scientists, etc., opposed the practices. Coercive eugenics was always controversial and its extreme perversion by Nazi Germany (the country of Goethe and Schiller!) gave the word “eugenics” a bad reputation.

    Margaret Sanger, whose great and beneficial social accomplishments far outweigh her role in the eugenics movement, advocated birth control and even, if necessary, involuntary sterilization of “feeble-minded” individuals. She advocated that poor people that did not have the resources to raise their children properly use birth control. She condemned involuntary sterilization of poor people, racial groups, ethnic groups, etc. The claim that Sanger advocated Black sterilization or genocide is a slur and a lie.

    I won’t take the time to explain why coercive eugenics is ineffective and useless. It involves an understanding of population genetic theory and the nature of the human population, gene alleles, and gene flow in a species population. Some people who read this blog are professional biologists and understand what I am referring to. The reality of the biological situation was not understood early in the 20th century, but in the United States the gradual scientific realization of the biological facts (i.e., population genetics) led to an abandonment of legal, coercive eugenics at about the same time that the Nazi atrocities became known. Some eugenic practices continued in the racist American South, unfortunately, but all have stopped now. The entire amazing history of American coercive eugenics is well-documented in many good books. The story reads today like a dystopian fantasy but is sadly all too true. Coercive eugenic theory was developed in England (including by some relatives of Charles Darwin but not by him personally) but never politically realized there; this is another amazing story that I won’t retell here although the guilt by association card is repeatedly played by anti-evolutionists (eugenics has nothing to do with evolution, of course, but only with genetics). The theory only found a foothold in the United States and, to a much greater and lethal degree, Nazi Germany. What’s really bad for us is that American theory and practice inspired Germany to a great extent. This entire incredible but true history is suppressed in American education since it is so shameful. The result is that the lies, distortions, and selective quotes of Radical Right-wing Religionists and Creationists have the ability to persuade many in the essentially completely ignorant U.S. citizenry about the dangers and excesses of science, family planning, and abortion. That is the true agenda of the Religious Right and the source of a multitude of misrepresentations, distortions, and lies.

    1. Thanks Steve. These were the fallacy aspects of early 20th century eugenics, genetics, and heredity that a number of nutjobs tried to put forward—and were sold to many people. I tried to put those forward below, but you did a much better job of it here. Thanks. Yes, I do understand the difference between useful, voluntary eugenics and nutjob eugenics.

  5. And this is why I am no longer a christian. This “Lyin’ for Jesus’ crap will not fly.

  6. Christianity has always lied, that is how it has stayed in business as long as it has.

    They make things up out of thin air and claim it is true; there are too many lies told in the Christian books to list here. However, I loath the way they talk about how their Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple.

    First that is not what happened and they know it. Yet, since it helps their hatred of the Jews, they lie about it.

    The Temple mount did have a Temple, but that was only a relatively small part of what was there. Herod’s Temple was, in actuality, an agora where people came to buy and sell wares.

    Gentiles were not permitted anywhere inside the actual Temple and no commerce of any kind took place within it’s confines.

    In the Hebrew scriptures, all Israelis had to pay a ONCE IN A LIFE TIME GIFT to support the Temple. Herod, however, made that an annual fee. Very few people could afford it because it was a special coin that was stuck of almost 100% pure silver. The people did not want to pay annually because it was too much of a burden.
    In order to pay the fee, money changers exchanged the various currencies from around Israel. It was a necessity for the to exist. However Jesus was like everyone else, he hated the annual fee and THAT is why the tables were tossed over.

    To add to the lie that commerce was not permitted in the Temple mound, Jesus supposedly said that it was a place of worship not a place of commerce.

    That is a bald faced LIE. It WAS a place of commerce, only the actual sanctuary area where sacrifices had been held in the first Temple but had been discontinued after its particle destruction. There were NO sacrifices made in Herod’s Temple.

    So for them to continue to lie is no big deal to them, it is a cult of untruth and that is why today so many people are leaving the churches. Christianity is not under attack, it is being abandoned for its lies and people are sick and tired of it.

    Sorry ’bout that, the that’s the unvarnished truth.

  7. Most abortions are caused by nature (if you are a philosophical naturalistic nontheist) or inexplicably allowed by an all-loving, all-powerful, all-knowing God (if you are a typical Christian supernaturalistic theist). 30-50% of all human conceptions end in spontaneous abortions (also known as miscarriages). About 40-50% of these spontaneous abortions are caused by lethal genetic abnormalities. There are several other causes for the others. You learn all this, or should learn all this, if you take a university-level genetics course. These natural or divine spontaneous abortions occur in far greater numbers than human-effected abortions. That’s reality.

    There are a few genetic abnormalities that are not lethal during gestation. The most common is Down Syndrome (trisomy 21). With the advent of ultrasonography and prenatal genetic screening, fetuses with Down Syndrome are usually detected before birth; most are aborted (ethical negative eugenics) since as children and adults require special care for life and ultimately have IQs of about 50 and several medical conditions, but a few are allowed to be born by extreme religionists who object to abortion for any reason (incest, rape, genetic abnormality, etc.). Then they write books and magazine articles about how wonderful raising Down Syndrome babies can be (always with the implication of how much more ethical and noble the Down Syndrome baby’s parents are than those who abort trisomy 21 fetuses). At least on this issue they give themselves the liberty of being pro-choice, a liberty they refuse to acknowledge for others.

  8. Thanks y’all for your comments. Was an excellent read. Particular thanks to Steve for putting things in perspective. It’s important to understand contemporary historical context when examining prevailing opinions. ‘Nuff said.