Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger, was a woman of heroic accomplishments, and like all heroes, she was also complex and imperfect. It is undeniable that Margaret Sanger’s lifelong struggle helped 20th century women gain the right to decide when and whether to have a child — a right that had been suppressed worldwide for at least 5,000 years.
Motivated by a deeply held compassion for the women and children whose homes she visited around the world, Sanger believed that universal access to birth control would:
- Reduce the need for abortion — a common and dangerous method of family planning in her time;
- Save women’s and children’s lives;
- Strengthen the nuclear family;
- Lift families out of poverty;
- Increase the good health and wellbeing of all individuals, families, and their communities; and
- Help women gain their legal and civil rights.
Sanger was a true visionary. In her lifetime, she convinced Americans and people around the world that they have basic human rights: that every woman has a right to control her body, and every child should be wanted and loved; that all people should be able to decide when or whether to have a child, and are entitled to sexual pleasure and fulfillment.
Learn More about the History of Margaret Sanger
While she was a woman of heroic accomplishments, Margaret Sanger had some beliefs, practices, and associations that Planned Parenthood acknowledges, denounces, and works to rectify today. Her life story provides a portrait that is bold, fascinating, formidable, human, complicated, and flawed. This factsheet provides a full overview of Margaret Sanger’s life and legacy. In particular, it details:
- Margaret Sanger’s early sexual health activism, her time in jail for spreading information about birth control, and how she wrestled with population control issues;
- How Sanger emerged as the leader of the international birth control movement and held her ground in the face of fierce opposition;
- Sanger’s outreach to the African American community (for a more detailed analysis, visit TrustBlackWomen.org), and
- Sanger’s leadership in the development of the most revolutionary medical breakthrough, after penicillin, of the 20th century: the pill.
Opposition Claims About Margaret Sanger
Margaret Sanger gained worldwide renown, respect, and admiration for founding the American birth control movement and, later, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, as well as for developing and encouraging family planning efforts throughout the international community.
Sanger also had some beliefs, practices, and associations that Planned Parenthood acknowledges, denounces, and works to rectify today. This fact sheet is designed to separate fact from fiction, explain Sanger’s views, and provide the background against which her views must be judged. It aims to encourage open conversations, as well as help address racism and ableism wherever they exist.