The ignorance of soundbite histories

Amanda at Pandagon wrote a great post about how important it is for members of our political class to understand the history of birth control before they make ignorant statements all over the press ( e.g. “feminists are pro-abortion” or “being pro-choice is racist; Margaret Sanger was a eugenicist”) and then make equally ignorant policy decisions:

Truth told, the history of birth control in the 20th century is a confusing one and hard to break into easy-to-read partisan packages.  Eugenics was a popular theory throughout the early part of the 20th century, until the Nazis put an end to that, and while Sanger was motivated primarily by her socialism and her feminism, she wasn’t above asking people with less than perfect motivations, such as the KKK, for support.  But it’s rich for modern people to act like this sort of bargain with the devil is impossible to understand, since future people will look at the fact that Pat Buchanan was allowed on MSNBC in the same dim light we use when looking at the social esteem that the KKK had in the 20s.  I’m not making excuses, but pointing out that Sanger’s footsie-playing with racist elements was about a short-sighted pragmatism instead of evil, the kind that we forgive in folks like Rachel Maddow.  In the 60s and 70s, you have the same problem.  The actual proponents of birth control and abortion rights were motivated by social justice, but more than a few racist legislators promoted birth control and abortion for seedy reasons.  Does this mean that women’s human rights should be revoked?  Or that perhaps the issue of complicity is more unnerving and complicated than most of us would like to admit?

Read the whole thing.

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