Pelosi Getting Award Named for Woman Who Said 'Most Merciful' to Kill 'Infant'

Penny Starr | March 26, 2014 | 9:15am EDT
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Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), taking the oath as Speaker of the House, on Jan. 6, 2009. (AP Photo)

( -- Planned Parenthood on Thursday will give House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) its Margaret Sanger Award, named for a woman who advocated eugenics and who wrote that large families would be doing what was "most merciful" if they killed one of their infants.

“The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it,” wrote Sanger.

Planned Parenthood is giving Pelosi, a Catholic, its Margaret Sanger Award because of her “leadership, excellence, and outstanding contributions to the reproductive health and rights movement over the course of her career.”

According to its website, Planned Parenthood traces its origins to 1916 when Sanger opened a birth control office in Brooklyn, N.Y.  In 1922, she incorporated the American Birth Control League to address issues such as "world population growth, disarmament, and world famine," and in 1923, Sanger opened the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau in Manhattan to provide contraceptives to women.

The American Birth Control League subsequently merged with the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau and later became the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1942.

Margaret Sanger (1879-1966)

A book written by Sanger and published in 1920, Woman and the New Race, included a chapter entitled “The Wickedness of Creating Large Families.”

In that chapter, number five – read it here -- Sanger argues that large families contribute to social decline because they exhaust the mother and harm her health, compel fathers to work incessantly to support their children, and lower the cost of labor because it produces too many workers. She also says the large family population, “swelled by overbreeding, is a basic cause of war, as we shall see in a later chapter.”

As her argument builds, Sanger writes, “Many, perhaps, will think it idle to go farther in demonstrating the immorality of large families, but since there is still an abundance of proof at hand, it may be offered for the sake of those who find difficulty in adjusting old-fashioned ideas to the facts.”

“The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it,” says Sanger.

“The same factors which create the terrible infant mortality rate, and which swell the death rate of children between the ages of one and five, operate even more extensively to lower the health rate of surviving members,” Sanger wrote.

She continued:  “Moreover, the overcrowded homes of large families reared in poverty further contribute to this condition. Lack of medical attention is still another factor, so that the child who must struggle for health in competition with other members of a closely packed family has still great difficulties to meet after its poor constitution and malnutrition have been accounted for.

“The probability of a child handicapped by a weak constitution, an overcrowded home, inadequate food and care, and possibly a deficient mental equipment, winding up in prison or an almshouse, is too evident for comment. Every jail, hospital for the insane, reformatory and institution for the feebleminded cries out against the evils of too prolific breeding among wage-workers."

(AP Photo)

In Chapter II, “Woman’s Struggle for Freedom,” Sanger discusses how infanticide has long been practiced as a way to dispose of unwanted and “imperfect” children.

“The status of infanticide as an established, legalized custom in Greece, is well summed up by [Finnish philosopher Edward] Westermar(c)k, who says: ‘The exposure of deformed or sickly infants was undoubtedly an ancient custom in Greece; in Sparta, at least, it was enjoined by law. It was also approved of by the most enlightened among the Greek philosophers.  Plato condemns all those children who are imperfect in limbs as well as those who are born of depraved citizens.'"

“Aristotle, who believed that the state should fix the number of children each married pair should have," wrote Sanger, "has this to say in ‘Politics,’ Book VII, Chapter V:

‘With respect to the exposing and nurturing of children, let it be a law that nothing mutilated shall be nurtured. And in order to avoid having too great a number of children, if it be not permitted by the laws of the country to expose them, it is then requisite to define how many a man may have; and if any have more than the prescribed number, some means must be adopted that the fruit be destroyed in the womb of the mother before sense and life are generated in it.’"

“Aristotle was a conscious advocate of family limitation even if attained by violent means," wrote Sanger. "‘It is necessary,’ he says, ‘to take care that the increase of the people should not exceed a certain number in order to avoid poverty and its concomitants, sedition and other evils.’"

Sanger argues in this chapter that women in ancient civilizations condoned infanticide as a way to gain their freedom.

“As to the Spartan women, Aristotle says that they ruled their husbands and owned two-fifths of the land,” Sanger wrote. “Surely, had they not approved of infanticide for some very strong reasons of their own, they would have abolished it.”

“Athens and Sparta must be regarded as giving very strong indications that the Grecian women not only approved of family limitation by the destruction of unwanted children, but that at least part of their motive was personal freedom,” Sanger wrote.

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