PoltiFact: Virginia senator off base on who created Planned Parenthood

Published Jun. 10, 2013

The statement

Says Democratic Party created Planned Parenthood.

Virginia state Sen. Stephen Martin, R-Chesterfield, in an interview

The ruling

Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger began her crusade for birth control access through a magazine called The Woman Rebel in 1914.

Sanger was subsequently arrested and charged with mailing obscene materials because the magazine championed birth control, which was illegal, and published information on sex. But the Democratic Party was not involved in her trials nor her opening of clinics in Brownsville, N.Y., in 1916 or in Harlem in 1923, according to the book Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion.

The book's author, Jean H. Baker, sent us an email saying Sanger "abstained from any political commitments."

The book says Sanger was angered by politicians from both parties who refused to back birth control programs, including Democratic Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy. Baker attributed the opposition to the doctrine and power of the Catholic Church rather than any political party creed.

Sanger founded the American Birth Control League in 1921. Members during its first decade were typically upper-middle-class women of childbearing age, according to the book Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America. The author, Ellen Chesler, wrote that of the members of the league willing to list their party affiliation, "just over half said they were Republicans, while 8 percent identified themselves as Socialists, reflecting the movement's, and Margaret's own, idiosyncratic histories."

Sanger resigned in 1928 as president of the league, which became the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1940.

Is there any evidence the Democratic Party created Planned Parenthood? When we asked Martin, he told us he phrased his claim poorly and should have said the Democratic Party has "sustained" Planned Parenthood.

We should note that even Martin's substitute claim needs qualification. Congress did not start funding birth control efforts until 1967 — 46 years after Sanger founded the organization that would become Planned Parenthood. For a long time afterward, there was strong bipartisan support.

Only in 2011, with the abortion debate heating up, were there partisan floor votes in which the GOP sought to strip federal money from Planned Parenthood and the Democrats insisted on preserving it.

There's no evidence to support Martin's claim. We rate it False.

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