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WaPo: Cain offered faulty history of birth control in U.S., Planned Parenthood founder

The Washington Post’s resident ‘Fact Checker’ Glenn Kessler has accused Herman Cain of “spouting historical fiction” about the origins of birth control in the United States.

In Tuesday’s column, Kessler awarded the GOP presidential candidate four Pinocchios for defending, on Sunday’s Face the Nation, previous statements he has made suggesting Planned Parenthood should be renamed “Planned Genocide.” (According to The Fact Checker’s rating system, four Pinocchios indicates that statements made by the person in question are “whoppers.”)

The comments Kessler scrutinized:

Face the Nation’s Bob Schieffer: “[T]here was, at one point back there when the question of Planned Parenthood came up, and you said that it was not Planned Parenthood, it was really planned genocide because you said Planned Parenthood was trying to put all these centers into the black communities because they wanted to kill black babies — before they were born. Do you still stand by that?”

Herman Cain: “I still stand by that.”

Schieffer: “Do you have any proof that that was the objective of Planned Parenthood?”

Cain: “If people go back and look at the history and look at Margaret Sanger’s own words, that’s exactly where that came from. Look up the history. So if you go back and look up the history — secondly, look at where most of them were built; 75 percent of those facilities were built in the black community — and Margaret Sanger’s own words, she didn’t use the word “genocide,” but she did talk about preventing the increasing number of poor blacks in this country by preventing black babies from being born.”

Kessler mainly addressed the 75-percent figure Cain threw out and offered some history about Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger to shed some light on the ongoing debate that the organization was founded on eugenicist principles.

On Cain’s claim that three-quarters of all of Planned Parenthood’s clinics are located in predominately African-American neighborhoods:

Tait Sye, a spokeswoman [sic] for Planned Parenthood, said that 73 percent of Planned Parenthood’s 800 facilities are in rural areas or what are known as Health Professional Shortage Areas, defined as areas with “too few primary care providers, high infant mortality, high poverty and/or high elderly population.” In other words, clinics are opened in areas of medical need.

Clearly, not all of these would be in minority areas, so Cain’s figure is obviously much too high. Indeed, the Guttmacher Institute–which supports abortion rights–earlier this year calculated that fewer than one in 10 of all abortion clinics (totaling about 1,800 in 2008) were located in predominantly African-American neighborhoods.

On Cain’s claim that Margaret Sanger wanted to “kill black babies”:

Starting in 1916, Sanger’s clinics at first were aimed mainly at poor immigrant women; a Harlem clinic was opened in the 1930s. In the late 1930s, Sanger began an effort to bring the clinics to the rural south, in what was called “The Negro Project.”

Sanger recruited a who’s who of black leaders to support the effort and, in letters to the project’s director, urged that white men who were outsiders should not run the clinics. She said the effort would gain more credibility with greater community involvement, given natural suspicions.

“The minister’s work is also important and he should be trained, perhaps by the Federation as to our ideals and the goal that we hope to reach,” Sanger wrote in a letter in 1939. “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”

In that context, the sentence, while inartfully written, does not back up Cain’s claim. (We received no further evidence from the Cain campaign.)

Kessler notes historical records indicate that Sanger pioneered the birth control movement in this country, and one of her primary goals was to expand access to birth control beyond rich women who were able to purchase contraceptive devices in Europe. He also points out Sanger was linked to the eugenics movement, which, he notes, was less controversial than birth control in the early 20th century.

On behalf of Planned Parenthood, African American media director Veronica Byrd responded to The Fact Checker’s queries: “For all her positive work, Margaret Sanger made statements some 80 years ago that were wrong then and are wrong now. Those statements have no bearing on the high quality health care Planned Parenthood provides today.”

Watch Cain on Face the Nation, from Oct. 30, 2011:

Meanwhile, Cain is still being accused of “flip-flopping” on his abortion views. He contradicted his campaign on Monday, when, at the National Press Club, he said he will back federal legislation that bans abortions without exceptions for rape or incest.

Watch Cain’s address the National Press Club, Oct. 31, 2011:

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