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Politics & Art: Cruz, GOP members demand museum remove Planned Parenthood founder’s bust

Margaret Sanger, a founder of Planned Parenthood, was a controversial figure in her time and is now again as critics blast her for being racist and in favor of limiting the population of minorities. Several GOP lawmakers are now demanding that a bust of her be removed from display at the National Portrait Gallery. The bust, by Joy Buba, was given to the Smithsonian by Cordelia Scaife May.
Margaret Sanger, a founder of Planned Parenthood, was a controversial figure in her time and is now again as critics blast her for being racist and in favor of limiting the population of minorities. Several GOP lawmakers are now demanding that a bust of her be removed from display at the National Portrait Gallery. The bust, by Joy Buba, was given to the Smithsonian by Cordelia Scaife May.

Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, a controversial figure during her lifetime, is drawing fire from GOP lawmakers who want a bust of her removed from a National Portrait Gallery exhibit.

Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas and 25 Republican congressmen, including Texas Reps. Louie Gohmert, Kenny Marchant and Roger Williams, recently sent a letter to Kim Sajet, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, a part of the Smithsonian Institution, calling for the immediate removal of the bust now on display in the Gallery's "Struggle for Justice" exhibit.

Sanger, a birth control pioneer, 1879 - 1966, was a hero to the women’s movement but there has recently been a renewed attention to her speeches and writings where she advocated using contraceptives to control the population of minorities, especially African-Americans.

"There is no ambiguity in what Margaret Sanger's bust represents: hatred, racism, and the destruction of unborn life," Cruz said. "Not only should we continue efforts to redirect funds from Planned Parenthood, an organization founded by Sanger that is currently under criminal investigation, we must also work to ensure that her inhumane life's work is in no way promoted."

Cruz has been leading an effort to defund Planned Parenthood because of videos, taken secretly, of staffers discussing the distribution of aborted fetal body parts and tissue to researchers. The House voted to terminate funding but the Senate has not voted on the issue. The organization disputes that it was selling body parts for profit, only for the cost of transportation and handling. Yesterday, Planned Parenthood announced that it would pay for the distribution costs.

But that distinction does not mollify the organization’s opponents.

"It is a complete and utter outrage to display a bust of Margaret Sanger in the National Portrait Gallery. In addition to this, it is appalling to honor her as part of the 'Struggle for Justice' collection," said Gohmert. "One of the founders of Planned Parenthood, Mrs. Sanger portrayed deep-rooted racism by advocating birth control as a method for controlling the population of minorities."

Asked for a response, the Portrait Gallery sent McClatchy the statement Sajet made in August when she refused to remove the bust after a group of African American clergy complained that it was being displayed alongside racial equality icons Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks.

“Margaret Sanger, founder of the American Birth Control League (1921), is included in the museum’s collection, not in tribute to all her beliefs, many of which are now discredited, 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,” said Sajet.

“Nonetheless, Sanger’s alliance with aspects of the eugenics movement raises questions about her motivations and intentions. The museum’s intent 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.”

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