Appearing before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was confronted in a way she probably wasn't expecting. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., asked the secretary to account for her comments the previous month, when she accepted the Margaret Sanger Award from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "I admire Margaret Sanger enormously," Clinton had said in March, "her courage, her tenacity, her vision ... And when I think about what she did all those years ago in Brooklyn, taking on archetypes, taking on attitudes and accusations flowing from all directions, I am really in awe of her."
I'm not sure what it means to "take on archetypes" (American Heritage Dictionary: "An original model or type after which other similar things are patterned; a prototype"). Perhaps she meant stereotypes. But it is worth pausing to consider, as Congressman Smith did, that the Planned Parenthood organization (of which Sanger's American Birth Control League was the predecessor) and the secretary of state continue to regard Margaret Sanger as an, if you will, archetypal modern feminist.
Mrs. Sanger was certainly a birth control pioneer. But when you examine the totality of Sanger's views, you'd think modern feminists would blanche -- at least a little. Sanger was a most thoroughgoing racist. "Eugenics," she wrote, "is the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political, and social problems." Here, from her book "What Every Girl Should Know" is an example of her thoughts on human development: "In all fish and reptiles where there is no great brain development, there is also no conscious sexual control. The lower down in the scale of human development we go the less sexual control we find. It is said that the aboriginal Australian, the lowest known species of the human family, just a step higher than the chimpanzee in brain development, has so little sexual control that police authority alone prevents him from obtaining sexual satisfaction on the streets." In his book "Liberal Fascism," Jonah Goldberg quotes Sanger as describing her life's work this way: "More children from the fit, less from the unfit -- that is the chief issue of birth control."
The secretary did not respond directly. She chose not to defend Sanger at all. Instead, she spoke of the suffering women that she had seen around the world. "I've been in hospitals in Brazil where half the women were enthusiastically and joyfully greeting new babies and the other half were fighting for their lives against botched abortions. I've been in African countries where 12- and 13-year-old girls are bearing children." I've asked the State Department to identify the Brazilian hospital to which Clinton was referring. They have yet to get back to me. As for children bearing children in Africa -- obviously birth control is necessary in poor countries, but is she really suggesting that cultures abusive enough to permit the marriage of very young girls would be open to providing them with birth control? It's like suggesting that the solution to wife beating is get men to wear boxing gloves.
Politicians always simplify, but this is truly ludicrous. Teen pregnancy down under the Clintons but then up under Bush? Sorry, the statistics do not reflect that. According to the Guttmacher Institute (the research arm of Planned Parenthood), teen pregnancy reached an all-time high in 1988 and 1989 and began trending down thereafter, reaching its lowest recent point in 2005 -- past the midpoint of the Bush years. It has been going up since then.
Part of Clinton's solution is to promote abortion, which she calls "women's reproductive health care." Anyone for a small irony? Margaret Sanger hated abortion and called abortionists "blood sucking men with M.D. after their names." Perhaps someone can ask Secretary Clinton about that at the next hearing.