Marie Stopes International announced that it will henceforth be known as MSI Reproductive Choices, in an attempt to distance themselves from their eugenicist founder, Marie Stopes.
"A rose by any other name" as Shakespeare famously wrote, "would smell as sweet." Giving Marie Stopes another name will do nothing to clear the foul stench of death that emanates from an organisation which killed 4.6 million unborn babies globally in 2019.
Pro-lifers have long pointed to Stopes' horrific views on the poor, the disabled and ethnic minorities. Now pressure from the recent Black Lives Matter protests has prompted the organisation to admit that she was a "supporter of the eugenics movement and expressed many opinions which are in stark contrast to MSI's core values and principles". Their press statement says that the "new name intentionally breaks with its connection to Marie Stopes the woman" and puts "choice front and centre".
Eradicating the "degenerate, feeble-minded and unbalanced"
Stopes (1880 – 1958) was a eugenicist through and through. While Marie Stopes may have been a "pioneer of family planning", it would be a stretch to say that she was motivated by women's choice.
Radiant Motherhood, one of a series of books on birth control that she wrote from 1918 to the 1930s, reveals the underlying and repulsive agenda behind her push for widespread birth control: "it is the urgent duty of the community to make parenthood impossible for those whose mental and physical conditions are such that there is a certainty that their offspring must be physically and mentally tainted..."
She wants their sterilisation made immediate and made compulsory otherwise there will be an: "...ever increasing stock of degenerate, feeble-minded and unbalanced who will devastate social customs...like the parasite upon a healthy tree."
She did not just write, but actively lobbied the Prime Minister and Parliament to pass Acts to enforce compulsory sterilisation in order to: "...ensure the sterility of the hopelessly rotten and racially diseased...by the elimination of wasteful lives."
Marie Stopes' first family planning clinic was in North London in 1921 and was run by an organisation she founded: The Society for Constructive Birth Control and Racial Progress. It was no coincidence that her birth control clinics were clustered in deprived areas, to focus on reducing the birth rate of the poor lower classes and prevent the birth of those whom she considered to be "the inferior, the depraved, and the feeble-minded".
None of this had much to do with empowering women, or in promoting birth control as a good in its own right.
Marie Stopes wasn't an abortionist
Another irony is that Marie Stopes did not actually support abortion. Whatever her abhorrent views on people she considered should never be born, she didn't actually advocate killing them. Now, the organisation founded in her name kills millions of babies every year, many because they are in some way considered inferior or just unwanted.
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali tweeted: "Marie Stopes Int'l is to change to just MSI because, as many say, she was a eugenicist, Pro-Nazi &racial purist, advocating sterilisation of the 'weak', 'degenerate' & mixed race. How different is this from MSI's work today as a leading abortion provider of the unwanted and disabled?"
The new eugenics
The final irony attached to a name change aimed at distancing itself from Stopes' eugenic views, is that newly named MSI Reproductive Choices carries out a eugenic programme of contraception and abortion on a scale Marie Stopes could never have dreamed of. The organisation is obsessed with promoting abortion and family planning across Africa and Asia, whether or not those countries actually want it, and whether or not it is legal. MSI have been repeatedly accused of operating illegal abortion clinics across African countries. In 2018, the Kenyan Medical Practitioners Board banned Marie Stopes from performing any abortion service. Less than two weeks after this action, the West African Country of Niger ordered the closure of Marie Stopes clinics for facilitating illegal abortions.
More recently, MSI has openly been promoting self-managed medical abortions and providing the drugs to do it, even in countries where there is a legal prohibition on over-the-counter sale of abortion drugs. Whether or not this aggressive pushing of abortion in developing countries is generally seen as eugenics, it certainly reveals a patronising attitude towards these countries' ability to decide and formulate their own laws on these issues. You can quite imagine Marie Stopes saying that African countries couldn't be trusted to decide for themselves whether abortion and birth control should be permitted in their country.
The journalist Dominic Lawson, whose 25-year-old daughter Domenica has Down's syndrome, has highlighted the eugenics behind abortion in this country. Writing about the ousting of a Downing Street advisor for expressing eugenicist views, he said: "Hidden in plain sight, however, is the most astounding hypocrisy. Eugenics is practised in this country, funded by the taxpayer, and supported — though by no means only so — by those who would regard themselves as being on the Left. I am referring to the law governing the termination of pregnancy, and the fact it actively discriminates against those unborn children who are likely to have subnormal IQs or physical disabilities."
A change of name does nothing to distance the vile views of Marie Stopes from the abortion provider bearing her name. Including the words "reproductive choices" in the organisation's new name rings hollow. Many women walking in through the doors of a Marie Stopes clinic feel they had no choice. One study found that 25% of US women attending sexual and reproductive healthcare services were subject to control or coercion over their "reproductive lives".
Around 75% of the women who contact ARCH have experienced some sort of coercion from partners or others.
MSI Reproductive Choices is killing the babies for whom unnumbered women around the world will never cease mourning. Nothing will erase the bloodstained, eugenic legacy of Marie Stopes until every clinic bearing her name is shut. For ever.
Alithea Williams is Campaigns and Parliamentary Research Officer at the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC). Antonia Tully is SPUC's Director of Campaigns.