Abortion giant Marie Stopes International changes name over activist's support for eugenics

The first family planning clinic of Marie Stopes International, founded in London, England during the 1920s. | Facebook/Marie Stopes International

Global abortion provider Marie Stopes International has changed its name to distance itself from the historic birth control activist, who expressed support for eugenics.

In a statement Tuesday, the organization operating in 37 countries announced that it is "dropping the name of the woman who created Britain’s first birth control clinic" due to "her advocacy of eugenics.” 

The organization's new name will be MSI Reproductive Choices. The name change is part of the organization's "bold new vision for the future" that by 2030 "no abortion will be unsafe and everyone who wants contraception will be able to access it."

Simon Cooke, the chief executive of MSI Reproductive Choices, explained the company’s rationale behind the move is to “intentionally” dissociate from its namesake.

“Marie Stopes was a pioneer of family planning; however, she was also a supporter of the eugenics movement and expressed many opinions which are in stark contrast to MSI’s core values and principles,” Cooke said.

“The name of the organization has been a topic of discussion for many years and the events of 2020 have reaffirmed that changing our name now is the right decision. As we look to the future with our new 10-year strategy, we are reflecting our fundamental focus in our new name, MSI Reproductive Choices.”

MSI Reproductive Choices stressed that “although our organization was not founded by Marie Stopes, there were understandable misapprehensions that MSI had a meaningful connection to her and her views.”

English Heritage, which “cares for over 400 historic buildings, monuments and sites” in England and erected a blue plaque to signify the historic nature of Stopes’ childhood home, elaborated on Stopes’ support for eugenics.

After noting that she opened Britain’s first birth control clinic in 1921, English Heritage described Stopes as “a dedicated believer in the ‘race science’ of eugenics” whose views “became increasingly extreme and eccentric as she got older.”

The English Heritage profile of Stopes contends that “her belief in encouraging those she deemed most suitable for parenthood to reproduce — which broadly meant those without disability and of higher social class — and discouraging those who did not,” underpinned her founding of the Society for Constructive Birth Control and Racial Progress in 1921.

“At times Stopes went further and advocated the compulsory sterilization of those she considered ‘unfit’ for parenthood: ‘the inferior, the depraved and feeble-minded," the profile states.

In addition to opposing mixed marriages and falling out with her son over his decision to marry a “short-sighted” woman, Stopes expressed anti-Semitic and xenophobic views. She once wrote a letter to a deaf father of four deaf children, telling him that he had brought “more misery … into the world.”

The Daily Mail reported on more examples of Stopes’ support for eugenics, stating that she was said to have supported Adolf Hitler, former German chancellor during World War II and leader of the Nazi Party.

Stopes reportedly sent the dictator a book of her poems enclosed with a letter stating: "Dear Herr Hitler, love is the greatest thing in the world." Additionally, the outlet reports that her views on eugenics were promoted by the Nazis and she also attended a conference in Berlin to promote "population science" in 1935.

While Stopes died in 1958, the company now known as MSI Reproductive Choices was not established until 1976, when Dr. Tim Black purchased the Marie Stopes Mothers’ Clinic, which was on the verge of closing due to financial difficulties.

Because Black and the other founders wanted to “recognize the origins of the building from which they started,” they named their organization Marie Stopes International.

Earlier this year, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, a branch of the largest abortion provider in the U.S., announced that the distancing itself from its founder, Margaret Sanger, who also spoke favorably about eugenics during her lifetime.

“The removal of Margaret Sanger’s name from our building is both a necessary and overdue step to reckon with our legacy,” said Karen Seltzer, PPGNY’s board chair.

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