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Friday, 06 January 2017 17:59

Marie Stopes, Eugenicist

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Her Early Days

Marie Stopes was awarded a PhD in paleobotany from the University of Munich in 1904, and became the youngest doctor of science in Britain; she was the first female academic at the University of Manchester. Marie Stopes went on to write the UK’s first sex manual, called ‘Married Love.’ Her book shocked the conservative men and women of the Victorian era, and Stopes was the subject of criticism from both the Anglican and Catholic Churches.  However the book proved to be popular and sold 2000 copies in the first two weeks after its release. Although an outspoken advocate for birth control and the rights of women, Marie Stopes wouldn't allow her clinics to provide abortions. Strangely, she also believed in the binding nature of marriage and sought an annulment for her first marriage, since she didn't agree with divorce.  

Eugenics and Contraception.

Although Marie Stopes was a member of the British Eugenics Society, this fact is often omitted from feminist sources of her history, which prefer to concentrate on her dedication to 'freeing women' from the burden of their fertility. In her book, “Radiant Motherhood”, Stopes advocated for the forced sterilisation of poorer classes, and even claimed that ‘idiots’ were more plentiful in wine-growing districts. (She associated feebler babies with conception during drunkenness.)

“It should be the policy of the community to discourage from parenthood all whose circumstances are such as would make probable the introduction of the weakened, diseased or debased future citizens.”

Stopes declared that parenthood should be made ‘impossible’ for those who had the potential for conceiving children with mental or physical weaknesses. She is notorious for sending a book of her poems about racial purity to Adolf Hitler. Marie Stopes may have been the first to publicly disseminate the idea that a person's value depends on 'wantedness'. She claimed that being wanted is the basic right of the child, and even suggested that the spirit of revolution was the result of mothers being forced to bear children against their will.

... No human being should be brought into the world unless his parents desire to take on the responsibility of that new life which must, for so long, be dependent on them. Far too many of the present inhabitants of this earth who are not wanted because of their inferiority, were children who came to reluctant, perhaps horror-stricken mothers. To this fact, I trace very largely the mental and physical aberrations which are today so prevalent; to this also I trace the bitterness, the unrest, the spirit of strife and malignity which seem to be without precedent in the world at present. Radiant Motherhood, p 193

Accordingly, Stopes opened the first family Planning clinic in the UK in 1921. She continued to lament that women should not be forced to become mothers against their will, and that ‘poor and feeble’ children were the result of prolific breeding by the poorer classes. Female doctors and nurses were exclusively employed for the sake of the women patients. Services were free, offering advice and access to birth control for poorer women; data about contraceptive use was gathered for research purposes. Stopes was accused of using the poor for scientific experimentation, a claim she denied. She invented her own contraceptive device, and these rubber cervical caps were distributed firstly from her clinic, then later by mail order.

Marie Stopes and Margaret Sanger

In 1915, Marie Stopes met Margaret Sanger, also a eugenicist, who was in England to garner support for her efforts to introduce birth control in the US. Although both women had competing interests in equipping England's women with contraception, Marie Stopes generally supported her like-minded acquaintance. Stopes wrote a letter in favour of Sanger to President Woodrow Wilson, to which other members of the Eugenics Society were signatories; one of these was the novelist H.G.Wells.

Have you, Sir, visualised what it means to be a woman whose every fibre, whose every muscle and blood-capillary is subtly poisoned by the secret, ever growing horror, more penetrating, more long drawn than any nightmare, of an unwanted embryo developing between her heart?… ….I pray, Sir, than you may be instrumental in rescuing, not only Mrs Sanger, a tender and sensitive mother from injustice, but that you will hasten the establishment of a new era for the white race when it may escape the sapping of its strength and the diseases which are the results of too frequent childbirth by over-worn or horror-stricken mothers.


Marie Stopes' Legacy

Marie Stopes died from breast cancer in 1958. In the year of her death, Anglican Bishops at the Lambreth Conference acknowledged the need for birth control, accepting that “procreation was not the sole purpose of Christian marriage”. Marie Stopes International now runs 600 centres around the world, providing contraception to around 15.6 million clients and performing over 3 million abortions per year. Fifteen of Marie Stopes’ clinics are located in Australia; the organisation was recently awarded a contract to provide ‘reproductive health’ services on behalf of the Western Australian government. Marie Stopes International’s pharmaceutical company, MS Health, is currently Australia’s sole manufacturer and distributor of the abortion pill Mifepristone/Misoprostol (GyMiso, also known as RU-486) which accounts for around a quarter of the abortions provided by their Australian facilities. Dr. Marie, as MSI is now known here, provides training for doctors who wish to dispense the abortion pill and also free resources on ‘reproductive health’ to doctors and schools.  You might be sickened, as I am, to read the glowing recommendation of (pseudo-Catholic) Bill and Melinda Gates’ 2014 report on the Marie Stopes website. In 2008, Marie Stopes was featured on a stamp in the UK. The British postal service honoured Stopes by naming her a ‘woman of distinction’, and her portrait was, somewhat controversially, featured on their 50p stamps. Telegraph columnist, Gerald Warner claimed:

“Marie Stopes is forgiven racism and eugenics because she was anti-life.”

  Sources: Curtin University Library online 2013 statistics from the Marie Stopes International website. – ‘Radiant Motherhood’ pdf. 

Kathy Clubb

Founder and Editor of The Freedoms Project

Kathy has been active in pro-life work for 6 years and was involved in a constitutional challenge to Victoria’s exclusion-zone laws. She is the Melbourne co-ordinator for Family Life International and is a member of the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants. Kathy began writing about pro-life and Catholic issues at Light up the but broadened her range of topics as she came to learn more about the many threats to freedom which are common to all Christians.

Kathy home-educates her youngest 6 children and considers her family to be her most important pro-life work.