In her blog post on Christianity Today’s website, “Contraception Saves Lives,” guest author Rachel Marie Stone argues that Margaret Sanger should be praised for her efforts in preventing humans from being conceived.
Stone first presents an anecdote of Sanger as a young nurse, whose mother had 18 pregnancies (seven of which ended in death). The young Sanger sought to become a nurse to care for pregnant women. She spent time in New York City where she witnessed much pain and suffering, including caring for a woman that had tried to perform a second abortion on herself but instead caused fatal damage.
The author then argues that Sanger’s cultural experience is much like that of women in Malawi, Africa today: “Here, women were likely to bear many more children than they wished to and many times more likely to die from complications of childbearing than women in America.” Although it may be true that women in Malawi could and would benefit from contraception, it hardly stands to reason that Margaret Sanger is the Mother Teresa we should look toward as the Patron Saint of Contraception.
The first problem that Stone has is the fallacious appeal to emotion in letting us know that Sanger’s mother had seven children die (either born or unborn, we aren’t told). In telling us this, Stone wishes for us to believe that it would have been better for those seven children to have never been conceived. This is badly misguided and perhaps even perverse. Instead of thinking that we shouldn’t cherish the life of those seven people (who could potentially live), we ought to recognize the intrinsic value that life has and cherish those seven people. The problem isn’t that these seven children were conceived, the problem is that these seven children died.
It is morally incorrect to believe that it would have been better for those seven people to have never been conceived. Death is the problem, not life. We don’t need to ask ourselves, “How do we stop life?” We need to ask ourselves, “How do we stop death?” If you believe that the way to stop death is to stop life, then you are woefully incoherent and missing the point and gift of life!
This same lesson holds true for the NYC woman who murdered her own unborn children. It is often implied that had the woman had access to better (contraceptive) care she would not have died. This misses the all-important factor that the woman had conceived! Christians should consider this a joy from the Lord (Luke 1:58, Psalm 127:3), not a burden that would be better to never receive. From the point of conception on, we need to deal with the potential options instead of fallaciously using regret as an argument (‘It would have been better for the woman not to conceive’). We should cherish life and find ways to support the woman and her child(ren).
Stone’s defense of the use of Sanger comes from the paragraph that notes the distinction between contraception and abortion in Sanger’s belief. Sanger was against abortion, despite our common perception of Planned Parenthood today. However meaningful this distinction may be, it ought not fade our justified distain for Sanger’s hatred of racial minorities, mentally ill, and handicapped people. This, I fear, is one of the byproducts of her blog post: that Sanger wasn’t as bad as we believe her to have been.
Mournfully, Stone and Sanger are of like minds in believing, ‘Oh, how much better the world would be if unwed women had less children.’ Such a philosophy misses the mark on so many levels, the chief of which is that we are to cherish human life, a gift from the Almighty Creator God. Christians should mourn the fact that child-bearing women are unwed, not that they are child-bearing. Eugenicists like Sanger and (functionally) Stone would be proud that people have bought into the idea that it is better for many people to not have been conceived. Yet this idea is simply uncharitable, ungracious, unbiblical, and unchristian. If this is Christianity today, then I want none of it.