Today, the House of Representatives will consider legislation to create a commission to study a proposal to build a National Women’s History Museum in Washington, D.C. The online exhibits for the group building the museum portray many wonderful stories of heroic women in medicine, law and politics. But the exhibits also highlight women such as Gloria Steinem and Betty Freidan – without giving the whole story on some of their more controversial views – and exclude other notable women. One online exhibit, for instance, gives a favorable depiction of Margaret Sanger, despite her leadership in the early movement to legalize elective abortion and her radical views on abortion.
Why should that be concerning? I talked to March for Life president Jeanne Monahan about the museum and why Americans should be concerned that women such as Margaret Sanger may be highlighted in the exhibits.
In what ways is Margaret Sanger linked to the early days of the abortion industry?
Jeanne Monahan: Margaret Sanger was the founder of Planned Parenthood’s predecessor, the American Birth Control League.. Many ABCL founding directors were known eugenicists who were actively involved in the international eugenics movement.
Sanger’s ultimate goal [was] . . . to do away with those she considered “unfit” through birth control. She [believed] the most urgent problem in our culture was to limit and discourage over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective.
Do you think Margaret Sanger’s legacy has had any influence on the abortion industry today?
Monahan: Absolutely. She’s the founder of Planned Parenthood, which is our nation’s largest abortion provider, and a player in the international abortion movement. Planned Parenthood is so proud of Margaret Sanger that on its own website, it states its mission has been very much the vision of Margaret Sanger, her views and her work. The organization’s highest honor is the Margaret Sanger Award. She is considered one of the movement’s greatest heroes.
Recent proposals to create a new National Women’s History Museum on the National Mall include exhibits that portray Margaret Sanger in a favorable light, brushing over her more radical abortion views. What do you make of this?
Monahan: It really breaks my heart that a museum that’s supposed to be about the history of women and the greatness of what it means to be a woman would uphold and put in front of everybody as a role model a woman who has been the pioneer of abortion.
If you think about it, abortion is the most anti-woman thing someone could possibly choose. Mother Teresa [said] “abortion is profoundly anti-woman. Three-quarters of its victims are women – half the babies and all the mothers.”
It’s a tremendous disservice to women that somebody like [Sanger] would be upheld as a role model. Let’s uphold the many amazing women who have made advances for us. But why are we upholding the founder of our nation’s largest abortion provider, when more than 3,000 children in our country are aborted every day?
Who are some pro-life women that Americans should know about?
Monahan: One of my heroes, a pro-life woman, is Dorothy Day. She had an abortion and then greatly regretted it. And then lived this tremendous life afterward and did whatever she could do help people live dignified lives. This woman came to know and live the dignity of the human person and then founded a movement – the Catholic Worker Movement – so other people would do that as well.
There are countless stories of heroic moms. But I also read a story a few weeks ago that brought tears to my eyes. Her name was Elizabeth Joyce. She contracted cancer and could have chosen to have chemotherapy. But she was pregnant, and her child would have been lost. She took the heroic path and chose not to do that. She passed away shortly after her baby was born. She really [understood] that . . . the gift of self is at the heart of what it means to be a woman.
There are many other amazing, pro-life women. [March for Life] founder Nelly Grey, Mildred Jeffers and Susan B. Anthony.
Many of those women aren’t likely to be included in exhibits at the new National Women’s History Museum, considering the left-leaning composition of the museum’s board of directors and advisory council. Yet, the museum is seeking space alongside other national museums on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
The bill before the House of Representatives today would create a commission to report on the costs of building and maintaining the museum, the governance structure of the museum and whether the museum should have space on the National Mall and be associated with the Smithsonian Institution, among other matters.