Herman Cain’s vacillations on abortion have been well documented, but his conspiracy theories about Planned Parenthood have not drawn much attention until now.
In a statement given at the Heritage Foundation in March 2011, well before his leap into the mainstream, Cain said the following:
When Margaret Sanger – check my history – started Planned Parenthood, the objective was to put these centers in primarily black communities so they could help kill black babies before they came into the world.
You don’t see that talked about that much anymore. It’s Planned Parenthood. No, it’s planned genocide. And you can quote me on that.
Today, seven and a half months later, Bob Schieffer pressed Herman Cain on the issue on CBS’s Face the Nation.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Okay. I want to ask you, since we’re on the subject of abortion, it was at one point back there when the question of Planned Parenthood came up and you said that it was not Planned Parenthood, it was really planned genocide. Because you said Planned Parenthood was trying to put all these centers into the Black communities because they wanted to kill Black babies–
CAIN (overlapping): Yes.
SCHIEFFER: –before they were born. You still stand by that?
CAIN: I still stand by that.
SCHIEFFER: Do you have any proof that that was the objective of Planned Parenthood?
CAIN: If people go back and look at the history and look at Margaret Sanger’s own words, that’s exactly where that came from. Look– look up the history. So if you go back and look up the history– secondly, look at where most of them were built. Seventy-five percent of those facilities were built in the Black community.
The fact checkers were on the scene immediately, taking Cain to task on his theory. It turns out that it’s patently untrue.
Margaret Sanger, the woman Cain accuses of genocide, founded a number of sexual health clinics in the early 1900s. According to PolitiFact, Sanger was a proponent of legal birth control and “thought that if women could legally control the number of children they bore, their health and economic conditions would improve.”
The story that Herman Cain tells about Margaret Sanger is likely a creative reading of a few unsavory bits of her history.
Sanger was involved with the eugenics movement, a social Darwinist wave whose most radical proponents supported sterilization of individuals with mental and physical ‘defects’ in an attempt to purge mankind of certain unwanted qualities. She nominated fellow eugenicists to serve on the board of the organization that would eventually become Planned Parenthood. This movement, which was relatively popular at the time, died off as states began imposing sterilization bans and public opinion soured on eugenics. There is no reason to believe that supporters of eugenics continued to exist on the board of Planned Parenthood after the movement’s downfall.
Sanger’s first clinic was opened in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York in 1916. The first of Sanger’s clinics to be situated in a ‘black’ neighborhood (Harlem in this case) was not built until the mid-1930s, and even then about half of its patients were white.
“Members of the black establishment, including DuBois and black newspaper the Amsterdam News, supported it,” PolitiFact said. ” This was hardly the pro-genocide camp.”
Neither clinic performed abortions.
Charges of racism leveled against Sanger are usually derived from her efforts during the 1939 Negro Project, a campaign that built a number of clinics (that also did not provide abortions) in black communities in the South, which may be the source of Cain’s claims that 75% of Sanger’s clinics were built in black communities.
The most-cited piece of “evidence” that allegedly proves Sanger’s true intent is found in a letter written to local pastors in the communities in which these clinics were to be built. Here, Sanger wrote the following, oft-misinterpreted quote:
We don’t want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs.
Poor wording, to be sure, but Sanger was simply trying to recruit respected figures from the black community who could quell any false, negative rumors that popped up about the public health campaign. Black leaders W.E.B. DuBois and Mary McLeod Bethune served on the Negro Project’s advisory council; first lady Eleanor Roosevelt supported the program.
In their investigation on the matter, PolitiFact “found no evidence that Sanger advocated – privately or publicly – for anything even resembling the “genocide” of blacks, or that she thought blacks are genetically inferior.”
And yet, in his characteristically willful and militant ignorance, Herman Cain persists in spreading the vicious lie that Planned Parenthood was founded on the desire to exterminate black children. Cain’s attempt at justification- “look at the history” – fails as soon as someone actually takes a look at the history.
For whatever reason, Herman Cain has been allowed to slip through the cracks of each budding controversy.
He’s been allowed to continue peddling a fatally flawed economic plan in an election that will supposedly be defined by the economy.
He’s been allowed to change his opinion on abortion on a daily basis, while Mitt Romney is labeled a flip-flopper because he publicly changed his mind on the subject about seven years ago.
He’s been allowed to proudly flaunt his ignorance of foreign affairs and his intolerance of Islam.
He’s been allowed to jump to the front of the Republican field of former governors, senators, and representatives without a credible presidential résumé.
And once the story of Planned Parenthood and Herman Cain’s great genocide conspiracy fade away, he’ll be allowed to get away with making a claim that PolitiFact called “a ridiculous, cynical play of the race card.”