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Culture Of Life 101 . . . “Who Was Marie Stopes?”

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By BRIAN CLOWES

(Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For an electronic copy of the booklet “Marie Stopes International Exposed,” e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.)

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Marie Carmichael Stopes was the United Kingdom’s answer to America’s Margaret Sanger. Both women lived during the same era. Both were vocal eugenicists and birth control pioneers in their respective nations during the 1920s and 1930s, and their writings show that their views on eugenics and racial purity were identical. Most important, Stopes’ legacy has done just as much to spread birth control and abortion across the globe as has Sanger’s International Planned Parenthood Federation.
Marie Stopes was born in 1880 to parents of the privileged European idle class. Her father, Henry, was an architect and her mother, Charlotte, was a renowned expert on Shakespeare, as well as being the first female graduate of a Scottish university.
The Stopes family was very well off, and they traipsed all over Europe pursuing their personal interests. The twin luxuries of time and money gave Marie the means to concoct her bizarre theories about eugenics and parenthood.
Marie Stopes was a eugenicist long before she was a birth controller. She was a life member of the Eugenics Society and was a member of the Malthusian League. In 1921 she founded her own Society for Constructive Birth Control and Racial Progress (CBC), and most of her fortune was left to eugenics organizations.
One of the basic principles of the CBC was that “the haphazard production of children by ignorant, coerced, or diseased mothers is profoundly detrimental to the race,” and that “many men and women should be prevented from procreating children at all, because of their individual ill-health, or the diseased and degenerate nature of the offspring that they may be expected to produce.”
In order to put its philosophy into action, the CBC located its birth control clinics in poor and minority areas, just as Planned Parenthood does now in the United States. The first of these birth control clinics was also the first of its kind in the United Kingdom. It was named the London’s Mother’s Clinic, and is still operating today.
In 1922, Stopes began to publish The Birth Control News. Her emphasis was on improving the race, and the motto of her organization was “Babies in the Right Place.” The slogan of The Birth Control News was printed on a lantern: “Birth Control: Joyous and Deliberate Motherhood, a Sure Light in Our Racial Darkness.”
]Stopes attended the Third Reich’s International Congress for Population Science in Berlin in 1935, two years after Hitler became chancellor of Germany, and long after his racist and anti-Semitic views had become well-known to the world. Four years later, after Germany had annexed Austria and occupied Czechoslovakia, she sent a collection of her mediocre poems entitled Songs for Young Lovers to der Fuehrer, along with a fawning letter saying, “Dear Herr Hitler; love is the greatest thing in the world, so will you accept from me these [poems] that you may allow the young people of your nation to have them?”
In 1952 Stopes was involved in the organization of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), which was established and initially housed rent-free in the offices of the Eugenics Society.
Stopes’ eugenicist views and hatred of the poor are well-documented. In 1919, she urged the National Birth Rate Commission to support the mandatory sterilization of parents who were diseased, prone to drunkenness, or of “bad character.” She also demanded that the “sterilization of those totally unfit for parenthood be made an immediate possibility, indeed made compulsory.”
She also said: “Utopia could be reached in my life-time had I the power to issue inviolable edicts. . . . I would legislate compulsory sterilization of the insane, feebleminded . . .revolutionaries . . . half-castes.”
Marie Stopes’ writings prove that she supported the practice of both positive eugenics (through encouraging more children among the “fit”), and negative eugenics (through sterilization and birth control among the “unfit”):
Stopes disapproved of all the “unfit weaklings and diseased individuals who threaten the race” and “the less thrifty and conscientious who bred rapidly and produced children weakened and handicapped by physical as well as mental warping and weakness.”
During World War I, she complained that “all the fine, clean strong young men…who go out to be killed…they have no sons to carry on the race, but the cowards and unhealthy ones who remain behind can all have wives and children.”
She also railed against a society that “allows the diseased, the racially negligent, the thriftless, the careless, the feeble-minded, the very lowest and worst members of the community, to produce innumerable tens of thousands of stunted, warped, and inferior infants.” She noted that “we as a race slide at an ever increasing speed toward the utter deterioration of our stock.”
Perhaps most startlingly, she said that, if only the world would adopt her eugenic vision, we would see an “entirely new type of human creature, stepping into a future so beautiful, so full of the real joy of self-expression and understanding that we here today may look upon our grandchildren and think almost that the gods have descended to walk upon the earth.”
At least Stopes was consistent in her application of her belief system — an amalgam of idealism, elitism, and eugenics — by applying it even to her own family.
She forced her son Harry to wear a skirt until he was 11 because she did not believe in the “ugly and heating-in-the-wrong-places garments which most men are condemned to wear,” and for the same reason forbade Harry to ride a bicycle.
When poor Harry flouted the principles of eugenics by marrying a nearsighted woman, Marie Stopes not only refused to attend the wedding, she cut him out of her will.
She said of Harry’s wife, the former Mary Eyre Wallace, “She has an inherited disease of the eyes which not only makes her wear hideous glasses so that it is horrid to look at her, but the awful curse will carry on and I have the horror of our line being so contaminated and little children with the misery of glasses. . . .  Mary and Harry are quite callous about both the wrong to their children, the wrong to my family, and the eugenic crime.”
Regardless of her ill-treatment of him, Harry Stopes-Roe is carrying on his mother’s work. He is currently vice-president of the British Humanist Association. According to The Guardian, “He now recognizes overpopulation as the most important practical moral problem.”
Harry’s mother clung to her eugenics philosophy long after the pseudo-science had been thoroughly discredited. In 1956, two years before she died, Marie Stopes asserted that one-third of British men should be forcibly sterilized, “starting with the ugly and unfit.”
Marie Stopes’ cruelty and self-centeredness were not limited to her poor son Harry. She had her first marriage annulled due to her husband’s impotence, and hopped from bed to bed for years. Like other “progressives” of her day and ours, she had little use for the family, the Church, or the sanctity of human life. Self-fulfillment was her tawdry and inadequate god.
The abortion industry in particular and liberalism in general have effectively erased Stopes’ racism and hatred of the poor from the collective memory of an inattentive and uncaring public, primarily because she is a historical reflection of the latte-sipping left. She has been so thoroughly “rehabilitated” that readers of the major British left-wing newspaper The Guardian voted her “Woman of the Millennium” in 1999.
The British elite class is working hard to sanitize Stopes’ legacy, just as the American elitists are laboring to cleanse Margaret Sanger’s. Beginning in October 2008, Stopes appeared on one of Great Britain’s 50-pence stamps. She was chosen by an all-female, all-feminist committee to be one of six women pioneers in the Royal Mail’s “Women of Distinction” collection. After thousands of outraged British citizens objected to Stopes’ virtual beatification by the Royal Mail, an RM spokesman refused to say how the decision to include Stopes was made.
Marie Stopes International, of course, also refused to comment on the controversy, employing the standard pro-abortion tactic of just hoping that the controversy would blow over.
Reginald Ruggles Gates, Marie Stopes’ first husband, claimed that she was “supersexed to a degree which was almost pathological.” Judging by her activities, Stopes certainly appears to have been a sex addict, and this preoccupation has undoubtedly been transferred to Marie Stopes International, an organization that makes Planned Parenthood look like a bunch of blushing virgins by comparison.

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Next article: More on “Profile: Marie Stopes International.”

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