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Rick Santorum: I'm Pretty Sure Planned Parenthood Practices Eugenics

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Santorum, a strict social conservative and (exploratorially at least) Republican presidential candidate, deftly hinted at the right's take on the history of Planned Parenthood, explained here on the National Right to Life Committee website.

Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger's support for eugenics gets a lot of play among anti-abortion advocates. Like Santorum did today, they claim that the Planned Parenthood of the modern day has kept at least some focus on cleansing society of "undesirables."

(Here's a good rundown of how the anti-abortion movement uses eugenics fears to win support in the minority community from Sarah Posner.)

Of course, abortions make up just a sliver of what Planned Parenthood does, and taxpayer funds that flow to the organization do so only to cover family planning and reproductive health for women.

Nevertheless, Santorum doesn't think the Planned Parenthood of today is much different from the age of Sanger's controversial views. He called on Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) to sign a bill in his state that would "defund" Planned Parenthood for Hoosiers, pointing to what he calls the group's shady past and sketchy present.

"I can't imagine any other organization with its roots as poisonous as the roots of Planned Parenthood getting federal funding of any kind," Santorum said. "This is an organization that was founded on the eugenics movement, founded on racism -- I mean, it's horrific. It's origins are horrific. And you can say, 'well it's not that anymore.' It's not far from where it was in my opinion."

As evidence of how "not far" Planned Parenthood is from his reading of its past, Santorum raised another standard of the anti-abortion movement, specifically an interview Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave the New York Times Magazine in 2009.

In the piece, Ginsburg speaks of being surprised that legislation like the Hyde Amendment and rulings that support it have diluted access to abortion in America with little or no talk of how that disproportionally affects poor women. The anti-abortion crowd read this as an affirmation that Roe v. Wade was really about preventing the birth of "undesirables."

(For the record, Ginsburg said "the government has no business making [a reproductive] choice for a woman" in the interview.)

Santorum made it clear he shares the view of those who think Ginsburg was hinting at eugenics when asked how he thinks Planned Parenthood has remained true to its nefarious roots.

"They've stayed in that same general area of saying that there are certain people in society that we should -- you heard Ruth Bader Ginsburg say it in her comments about you know "undesirables" in society," he said. "I just don't think that's what federal government or state government money should be going to."

Late Update:

Planned Parenthood's Director of African-American Media, Veronica Byrd, sends along this statement in response to Santorum:

Rick Santorum has stooped to using race as a wedge issue to launch a highly political attack ON Planned Parenthood. The truth is that the doctors and nurses who deliver care at Planned Parenthood's more than 800 health centers provide women from every community with basic preventive care, including lifesaving breast and cervical cancer screenings, Pap tests, annual exams, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, and HIV testing. Like other American women, African-American women understand that Planned Parenthood works every day to make sure that all women have access to high quality, affordable health care.

In January, the Guttmacher Institute did a study on the placement of clinics that provide abortion services and the demographics in the areas that surround them. From the findings:

Fewer than one in 10 abortion clinics are located in predominantly African-American
neighborhoods, or those in which the majority of residents are black.