Just weeks after praising Planned Parenthood supporter Rosa Parks, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has sent a letter [PDF] to the National Portrait Gallery demanding that the Smithsonian museum remove a bust of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger from its “Struggle for Justice” exhibit, which features well-known leaders of social movements.
Cruz, in a letter drafted with Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and joined by two dozen House Republicans, tells the gallery’s director that the presence of the bust “is an affront both to basic human decency and the very meaning of justice.” After citing the discredited claim that Planned Parenthood sells fetal tissue for profit, the group then badly twists a Sanger quote, “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.”
In Sanger’s letter, which you can find here, she was saying that she wanted black leaders to join her effort to promote birth control access because she was afraid that opponents would disseminate such unfounded rumors, which is ironically exactly what Cruz and Gohmert did with their letter.
While Sanger was a believer in eugenics, so were many leaders of her time, including Winston Churchill. Ironically, Cruz consistently says on the stump that one of his first acts as president would be putting a bust of Churchill in the Oval Office. (The Obama administration’s decision not to hold onto a Churchill bust that the British government had temporarily loaned to George W. Bush has become a frequent point of attack from the Right, despite the fact that there is another Churchill bust still in the White House residence.)
Nevertheless, Cruz and Gohmert go on to say that Sanger’s “racist views have had a very real and devastating impact on the widespread destruction of unborn human life — especially in minority communities.”
The signers include anti-choice stalwarts Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., who is slated to chair a House special committee targeting Planned Parenthood.
The letter appears to be part of a larger campaign launched by extremist pastor E.W. Jackson to remove the bust from the gallery. Jackson said that Sanger’s presence in the gallery would dishonor civil rights leaders like Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. However, like Parks, King was a supporter of Planned Parenthood and praised Margaret Sanger for her “courage and vision.”
There is a striking kinship between our movement and Margaret Sanger’s early efforts. She, like we, saw the horrifying conditions of ghetto life. Like we, she knew that all of society is poisoned by cancerous slums. Like we, she was a direct actionist – a nonviolent resister. She was willing to accept scorn and abuse until the truth she saw was revealed to the millions. At the turn of the century she went into the slums and set up a birth control clinic, and for this deed she went to jail because she was violating an unjust law. Yet the years have justified her actions. She launched a movement which is obeying a higher law to preserve human life under humane conditions. Margaret Sanger had to commit what was then called a crime in order to enrich humanity, and today we honor her courage and vision; for without them there would have been no beginning. Our sure beginning in the struggle for equality by nonviolent direct action may not have been so resolute without the tradition established by Margaret Sanger and people like her. Negroes have no mere academic nor ordinary interest in family planning. They have a special and urgent concern.
Recently the subject of Negro family life has received extensive attention. Unfortunately, studies have overemphasized the problem of the Negro male ego and almost entirely ignored the most serious element – Negro migration. During the past half century Negroes have migrated on a massive scale, transplanting millions from rural communities to crammed urban ghettoes. In their migration, as with all migrants, they carried with them the folkways of the countryside into an inhospitable city slum. The size of family that may have been appropriate and tolerable on a manually cultivated farm was carried over to the jammed streets of the ghetto. In all respects Negroes were atomized, neglected and discriminated against. Yet, the worst omission was the absence of institutions to acclimate them to their new environment. Margaret Sanger, who offered an important institutional remedy, was unfortunately ignored by social and political leaders in this period. In consequence, Negro folkways in family size persisted. The problem was compounded when unrestrained exploitation and discrimination accented the bewilderment of the newcomer, and high rates of illegitimacy and fragile family relationships resulted.