Why is a Bust of Margaret Sanger in the Smithsonian?

sanger-bustCommentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

The Smithsonian Institution is embroiled in a new controversy surrounding its decision to feature a bust of Margaret Sanger, the eugenicist and founder of Planned Parenthood, in the National Portrait Gallery, an exhibit they are refusing to remove.

World Net Daily is reporting on the story of the bust which is on display in – of all places – the National Portrait Gallery’s (NPG) “Struggle for Justice” exhibit. Sanger was a well-known eugenicist who founded Planned Parenthood and lobbied for the use of birth control to prevent the birth of people she deemed unworthy of life. This list included not only the poor, but also the black population.

In a letter to the Smithsonian, the leaders of a black clergy association known as Ministers Taking a Stand stated a long list of very good reasons why the bust should be removed immediately.

“Perhaps the Gallery is unaware that Ms. Sanger supported black eugenics, a racist attitude toward black and other minority babies; an elitist attitude toward those she regarded as ‘the feeble minded;’ speaking at rallies of Ku Klux Klan women; and communications with Hitler sympathizers. Also, the notorious ‘Negro Project’ which sought to limit, if not eliminate, black births, was her brainchild. Despite these well documented facts of history, her bust sits proudly in your gallery as a hero of justice. The obvious incongruity is staggering!”

The Institute responded by saying that Sanger is included in the collection “not in tribute to all her beliefs, many of which are now controversial, but because of her leading role in early efforts to distribute information about birth control and medical information to disadvantaged women, as well as her later roles associated with developing modern methods of contraception and in founding Planned Parenthood of America.”

The Institute acknowledged her controversial positions but said their intent in featuring the bust “is not to honor her in an unqualified way, but rather to stimulate our audiences to reflect on the experience of Americans who struggled to improve the civil and social conditions of 20th-century America.”

How about Eleanor Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, Elizabeth Cady Stanton – and dozens of other notable women who had nothing to do with abortion and eugenics during their lifetime? Can’t they stimulate the same kind of reflection?

The pastors aren’t buying it. “Perhaps your institution is a victim of propaganda advanced by those who support abortion,” they say in their letter. ”Nevertheless, a prestigious institution like the National Portrait Gallery should have higher standards and subject its honorees to higher scrutiny.”

Even more outrageous is the fact that the taxpayers are funding this bizarre exhibit. The Smithsonian received $819.5 million in federal funding this year.

A petition to the Smithsonian to remove the exhibit has already garnered more than 10,000 signatures. Click here to join the protest!

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