It’s been fifty years, since I was first confronted by issues of life in the womb, and of choice conflicting with traditional morality. It’s an old story, but very personal, and fraught with emotional triggers. Then, I was a student nurse at Mt. Sinai Hospital, where Dr. Alan Guttmacher and Margaret Sanger were being hailed as super-heroes of Womankind. In a lecture presented to student nurses in our formative years, opinions were presented as fact. The class focused on birth control, under the banner of Women’s Health. A one-sided presentation of the history of Planned Parenthood took center stage. I knew, then, the class was skewed, avoiding the issue, and immorality of abortion, which, in reality, eventually raises its ugly head in an unbiased arena.
I was silent, asked no questions, although I was aware that what was being said was not the whole, unadulterated story. The heroine, Margaret Sanger, in truth, wrote prolifically, revealing the underpinning of her eugenic philosophy. Her own words promote a foundational agenda more akin to racial cleansing, than savior of womankind. Her involvement in the Negro Project and speeches to the Klu Klux Klan should have been red flags stripping her of any moral authority. She was, and, is no hero, to at least half our Nation. Yet, fifty years, and Sanger’s own words, have not deterred Planned Parenthood from canonizing her, and striving to re-write her actual history. Then, I didn’t know her history; I do now.
You can find Sanger’s writings online, as well as ample examples of her questionable associations and eugenic thought processes. I wish I knew all this years ago, for my experience of the lecture left me feeling that my inexperience and naiveté, made me vulnerable to propaganda. I was not prepared to confront the status quo, and those in authority, even at this level, in a teaching venue.
Well, it has been fifty years, and in reading our Alumnae News, spring 2012, an article entitled, “The Past- Planned Parenthood from the Beginning” brought me back to that day and my dilemma. What bothered me most about the recent, well-meaning article was the writer’s voice that seemed to me to assume moral superiority. There is a false compassion that plays to emotionalism and worse case scenarios, and I heard it in the tone of this piece. It, yet again, presented its cast of characters as pioneer heroines, and their cause as above reproach. Yet, there are many Mt. Sinai alumnae, and millions of people in this country, who, in a just righteousness, also seek the welfare of women, desire to protect the living, the home, and the foundational fabric of society as guardians of family and the individual, and who do not agree with this stance, and suppositions made here. They are ignored in this article, as they were in the lecture of years ago.
Motherhood plays poorly, when pregnancy is portrayed as an albatross hung about its neck. For a true dialog, and the Big Picture, the voice of the other side needs to be heard by student nurses and society as a whole, for the good of women and society. It is a necessary and rational voice, lifted to oppose, what it views as a pseudo-sophisticate, myopic view presented as progressive. This other valid voice addresses life issues compassionately, while being circumspect and prophetic, speaking for, and caring for, the good of the person and humanity. It, too, takes a moral stance that is unselfish, sometimes unpopular, and honors the wisdom of cultures and the sages of present and past ages. Dismissive attitudes do no justice to truth and learning. Student nurses, and society as a whole, deserve the whole truth. Our personal humanity hangs in the balance.
I, for one, want a voice, not a label. I’ll stand with those that reject a culture, in which truth doesn’t matter, that seeks the material over life, “whose morality is only a mask, which covers confusion and destruction”1and in doing so comes dangerously close to denying the Creator of life.
Our motto, “Vota Vita Nostra”, “We devote our lives,” speaks not only to our personal decision, but to there being One, and a cause, greater than ourselves, worthy of sacrifice, and our dedication, greater even than the Mt. Sinai from which we ventured forth, will never forget, and now are carrying into this day and this hour of history. Keep it real. Keep it honest. Listen for truth with the heart of a nurse.
© 2012 Joann Nelander