Making John Knox’s Bones Twitch

Rachel Marie Stone wrote an article for Christianity Today urging us to “reconsider” Margaret Sanger. The point was that while Sanger was emphatic about the personal and social good that comes from freely available contraception — contraception that was under the control of women — she was also opposed to abortion.

I learned about this article through a lot of good Christians what-the-helling on Twitter and so on, and so I thought I should go take a look. Having done so, let me acknowledge an important point made by a number of respondents thus far. Sanger was a white supremacist, and she was promoting her methods as a way of keeping the human weeds under control. Her outlook was perfectly appalling, and this illustrates yet again that we shouldn’t really care how good Mussolini was with train schedules, or how disciplined and coordinated the North Korean flag-waving drill team is.

The prefix eu in eugenics was a thin code for those white folks who have now dropped the word eugenics like a hot rock, but who still continue to disproportionately target black boys and girls — with the connivance of black quislings — and it should be pointed out by somebody that they have a kill rate much higher than that of the Ferguson Police Department.

But an additional point about abortion needs be made. Let me grant (for the sake of discussion) that Sanger really was opposed to abortion, and that this was not just a PR stance. Down to our own day, pro-aborts have shamelessly argued that they want to make abortion rare while they tirelessly work to make it not very rare at all. Let me stipulate that, as bad as Sanger was, she wasn’t as ghoulish as her heirs are.

My point concerns that word heirs. Are the current denizens of Planned Parenthood actually Sanger’s heirs? They have to this point conducted, and profited greatly from, tens of millions of abortions. Have they betrayed Sanger’s vision on a massive scale, with it being the same kind of thing as a modern Lesbyterian pastor making John Knox’s bones twitch? Or was it simply a matter of the fruitlessness logic contained within the premises working its way out over time?

If it was the latter, as seems obvious to me, then available contraception doesn’t save lives, at least not the way this article was arguing. Or, put more accurately, it doesn’t save lives net. If there was something in Sanger’s Planned Parenthood that led to this Planned Parenthood, then what we have done is traded in many numerous accidental and tragic deaths for even more numerous deliberate and tragic murders.

If the survival rate for wanted children greatly increases, then we should really be happy about it — unless the price tag for this benefit is the mortality rate for unwanted children increasing even more. This is especially the case if we keep the cause of mortality in mind. There is a non-subtle difference between losing children and throwing them away.

So let us assume that Sanger was against abortion, just like most evangelical Christians currently are. If there was something that she introduced into her organization that turned them completely around on this crucial issue, shouldn’t we inquire into what that might have been before we imitate anything from her project whatever? Before we admire it or her? Before we try to rehabilitate anything about it?

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Sam Hoyle
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Sam Hoyle

Sanger was not against abortion, she was only against “back-alley” abortions.

Kamilla
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Kamilla

Stone’s post was part of a series. A further I stall end of the series will be contributed by the author whose book I review here:

http://kamillaludwig.com/2012/02/book-review-no-easy-choice/

Oh, and Mrs. Rick Warren has collaborated on a book with Mrs. Bill Gates furthering the cause of freely available birth control. It will be released later this month.

Kamilla
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Kamilla

erm, *installment

BJ
Guest
BJ

“Down to our own day, pro-aborts have shamelessly argued that they want to make abortion rare while they tirelessly work to make it not very rare at all.”

They are up to far more than that. Sanger and he regime of merry killers were and still are despicable. See, for instance, this or this. Christians, no matter how well intentioned, must not get anywhere near that brood of vipers.

“But those who fail to find me harm themselves; all who hate me love death.”

Under His Mercy,
BJ

Moor
Guest
Moor

Abortions should be just safe enough and just rare enough to afford all women the chance to pursue the kind of sexual license they have been decrying in men. Because equality and feminism.

Johnny Simmons
Member

“What-the-helling” is pretty good.

Kimberley
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Kimberley

I was “what-the-helling” about this on FB. Excellent post about this DW…I would only add that hormonal birth control does not decrease baby death since The Pill itself is an abortifacient (as are other hormonal methods).

The third function of hormonal birth control destroys an already present human life from completing its task of implantation. Life begins at fertilization and not at conception.

http://www.hasslefreeclinic.org/BirthControl.php

Andrew
Guest

“Be fruitful, make sure you don’t try to have too many kids, try to keep the earth mostly human-free and let it have its way.”

Says who?

BJ
Guest
BJ

Kimberley,

How is the pill an aborifacient? I thought it prevented, not ended pregnancy.

Under His Mercy,
BJ

Barnabas
Guest
Barnabas

Andrew –
The command to be fruitfull and multiply was given to people in a world as yet devoid of humanity. Paul, on the other hand, said it would be better not to marry. By that I’m certainly not advocating abortion and not necessarrily birth control. I just think that scripture is often misused.

Rick Davis
Guest

Barnabas, Actually, Paul says it is better not to marry in light of the present distress i.e. – In this coming persecution of the Church by the Roman authorities, it’s probably not a good idea to be taking on the responsibility of a wife and family. (1 cor. 7:26) Paul is saying that there’s nothing wrong with marriage, but that the fact of the present distress (once again, I think that’s clearly referring to the coming persecution at the time) those people that do get married will have troubles. (1 cor. 7:28) I think 1 Cor. 7 is more misused… Read more »

David
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David

Barnabas,

As you may or may not be aware, Paul’s advice about it being better to remain unmarried was specifically related to his understanding of an impending and severe persecution of Christians. It was a concession to immanent violent persecuction, and not related to anything having to do with how populated the earth was.

Matt
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Matt

Nevertheless, Barnabas’ point stands. The Earth is not an infinite space and “be fruitful and multiply” is obviously contingent upon whatever place you are living in not being overpopulated. Be fruitful and multiply in Mongolia all you want, but in Bangladesh maybe give it a rest?

Moor
Guest
Moor

The issue of birth control and fruitful multiplication is one of those areas where the Roman Catholic church has a much more robust and well-developed theology and praxis than most Protestants.

To that end, Bangladeshies should be taught Natural Family Planning rather than be handed The Pill.

Of course, any approach to birth control that involves the volition and cooperation of the husband/boyfriend is only going to be sustained by values endemic to a Christian worldview, so perhaps what Bangladesh really needs is more of the Gospel.

Joel
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Joel

Relatedly, I noticed that the essayist was specifically pushing for women to be able to render themselves infertile against their husbands’ wishes, because everyone knows that men shouldn’t get any say in family affairs.

Mark Hanson
Guest
Mark Hanson

I notice in today’s follow-on post to Rachel Stone’s guest article, Amy Becker backs away from Sanger, even riffing on some of Doug’s questions: If Sanger was indeed opposed to abortion (calling it a “social disgrace,” for instance), then why does her organization now provide more abortions than any other in the United States? Does access to contraception inevitably lead to access to abortion? Is there a necessary relationship between eugenics and contraception? And since Becker is the mother of a Down’s Syndrome child, I hope she carries this thinking through to a good end. She is hopeful that fruit… Read more »

pat
Guest
pat

Here’s an article for BJ explaining the abortifacient capabilities of birth control pills (also IUDs, ‘morning after pills’, etc.)
http://www.epm.org/resources/2010/Feb/17/short-condensation-does-birth-control-pill-cause-a/

Kamilla
Guest
Kamilla

I read Becker’s follow up as well. It perpetuates the fiction that Sanger really just wanted to help poor women in the end. Perhaps she thought she did, but the help on offer was to make sure there were fewer human weeds and imbeciles in the world, period. And if her birth control methods failed, she wasn’t above suggestion it would be a kindness to strangle the poor little brighter in the crib.

TedR
Guest
TedR

Matt, you said, ““be fruitful and multiply” is obviously contingent upon whatever place you are living in not being overpopulated. Be fruitful and multiply in Mongolia all you want, but in Bangladesh maybe give it a rest?” No, I wouldn’t give it a rest, the mandate is clear and was given with no caveats, no contingencies. We just need to have the faith that God means what he means. When I tell my kids to brush their teeth I know the consequences of not doing it, they don’t. I don’t think God gave us the encouragement to multiply unaware of… Read more »

Michael
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Michael

Barnabas,

God’s command to a married couple is to be fruitful and multiply. This is restated to Noah after the flood. Paul’s “suggestion” not to marry is to single Christians. And it is only a suggestion. This is no way implies anything about having children. Having children was assumed in the NT.

Integrating these passages is not difficult. If you are single, consider whether you should be married. If you are married, have kids.

Barnabas
Guest
Barnabas

Rick and David –
Yes, both apply to specific situations in the Bible. Which is more applicable today? You may find some very odd thoughts on this at First Things where they periodically celebrate the fecundity of countries unable to feed themselves. For the record, I do have some children, though not as many as I potentially might have, and I also don’t go around naming animals.

Barnabas
Guest
Barnabas

Unstable populations may be a problem in either direction though a gradually declining population in a world of dwindling resources is only really a problem when your economy is a ponzi scheme. A crashing population may be a sign of many potential ills but we did just fine in this country historically with a much smaller population. A booming population in a very poor country will lead to social instability, war, disease, and hunger. To say that you are in favor of “be fruitful and multiply” come what may is to be in favor of these Malthusian feedback loops. If… Read more »

Dan Glover
Guest

Allan Jacobs has a characteristically thoughtful critique and response to Stone’s original article here:

Dan Glover
Guest
Kamilla
Guest
Kamilla

Predictably, we have someone illegitimately invoking Godwin’s law in a case where the mention of Mr. Shicklgruber’s little boy is actually appropriate:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/ellenpainterdollar/2015/03/rethinking-margaret-sanger-contraception-how-we-are-all-a-moral-mixed-bag/

ashv
Guest
ashv

Interesting train of thought. Similarly —

Let us assume that the signers of the US Constitution were in favor of a Christian republic, the kind that behaves and is organized they way you like. If there was something they introduced into the actual government they built that resulted in what we have now, shouldn’t we take a hard look at what that was, before we support it by voting or otherwise engaging with it politically?

Jon Swerens
Member

I was under the impression that the 20th century utterly disproved Malthus and his dire predictions, ranking him somewhere between Hal Lindsey and the guy who said Jesus was coming back in 1988.

Barnabas
Guest
Barnabas

Hmmm, 1984 fell in the 20th century didn’t it? High fecundity populations around the world live on because low fecundity populations in America and Europe are feeding their children. Let there be an economic or energy price shock that stops the grain shipments for a few months and we’ll see how wrong Malthus was. Saying that technology might have prevented a famine under conditions of maximal social order isn’t saying much.

Jane
Member

Barnabas, in that case the question might be, do we blame the sin, or the obedience, for the situation? Is it the sins of greed and violence that expose people to famine, or not knowing that they’re not supposed to obey that command anymore?

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

You’re simply wrong on that, Barnabas. The reason Malthus was wrong is because food shortages DON’T lead to lower population. The issues that stimulate overpopulation are all exacerbated by food shortages. The less food there is, the more poverty there is, the less education people are able to complete, the more fearful people get, the more children die of malnutrition…and thus the more children poor people have. Families who are well educated, who have the ability to control their family size, and who are confident that their kids will grow up to adulthood and be successful at sustaining the family… Read more »

Barnabas
Guest
Barnabas
Matt
Guest
Matt

No, I wouldn’t give it a rest, the mandate is clear and was given with no caveats, no contingencies. Not quite. “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth…” Well they did it, and while the earth isn’t entirely full, parts of it are and Bangladesh is certainly one of them. Americans living in the relatively uncrowded USA often can’t really grasp what too many people means. Maybe you’d love to live in Hong Kong but count me out. As for depopulation, it is usually the case that the opposite of an extreme is not really any better. Maybe there’s… Read more »

Kimberley
Guest
Kimberley

So then Matt, God is wrong to create those little lives in the wombs of the Bangladeshi women? He is making mistakes because he’s clearly waiting on those women to take an action to help Him close their wombs? Is that right? Go’s sovereignty is contingent on our help?

Are the babies of Bangladesh less worthy of life because their government keeps them in poverty?

Matt
Guest
Matt

I don’t think I ever said that no one should have any kids ever. Each woman needs to have about 2 kids in order to sustain the population. But the “be fruitful and multiply” types seem to think that there should be no upper limit of any kind, which is frankly just crazy nonsense.

Kimberley
Guest
Kimberley

Ah. So China is your perfect model.

And what of those that believe that God is sovereign. That He alone should open and close the womb because He knows best (as always). What about those?

Kimberley
Guest
Kimberley

And who is to decide what the “upper limit” is to be? Why is God unfit, in your mind, to plan and purpose the size of a family.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

Kimberley, I think the “upper limit” is to be decided by the married couple using a modicum of reason and common sense. I believe it is irresponsible to have more children than you can afford because otherwise you run the risk of burdening other people (whether your family, your church, or the government) with the expense of helping to support them. I think it is irresponsible to have more children than you can realistically manage in terms of your physical and emotional health. I am not saying that people shouldn’t have kids unless they can supply the latest electronics and… Read more »

Matt
Guest
Matt

Ah. So China is your perfect model.

China would be the opposite extreme. It is unwise to replace one extremism with another, as China is discovering.

And what of those that believe that God is sovereign. That He alone should open and close the womb because He knows best (as always). What about those?

Those people remind me of the joke about the man on the roof of the Church during a flood, waiting for rescue.