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To the Editor:

Re “Planned Parenthood in N.Y. Disavows Margaret Sanger Over Eugenics” (Washington Post, July 22):

Sanger’s 1st clinic at 17 West 16th Street, NYC

Margaret Sanger pushed her way into the (then) widely respected eugenics movement in order to win greater acceptance for birth control, which was illegal and associated with promiscuity and prostitution. Yet she vehemently opposed the eugenics movement’s principal goal: increasing middle- and upper-class childbearing.

Sanger believed that every woman, regardless of class, religion, or race, should be able to decide when and if to have children. The exception she made, which was broadly supported, was for those who were incapable of caring for a child or were at risk of passing on a disease or defect. Today we see a troubling disconnect between Sanger’s lifelong fight for women’s reproductive freedom and her inability to extend rights and liberties to the mentally and physically disabled.

But it’s important not to let the decision by Planned Parenthood of Greater N.Y. legitimize the accusation made by many on the right that Sanger was a racist intent on limiting the reproduction of people of color. Sanger never defined fitness for parenthood in racial terms and worked closely with Black leaders and in Black communities to improve access to contraception.

Peter Engelman

Conway, Mass.