Marie Stopes International changes name over founder's eugenics support

Marie Stopes International has changed its name in order to distance itself from its founder and her support of eugenics. 

It will now be known as MSI Reproductive Choices, a change it said "breaks with its connection to Marie Stopes, the woman and reflects the global organisation'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." 

MSI was founded in 1976 by Dr Tim Black, Jean Black and Phil Harvey, with the first clinic being opened on the site of the original Marie Stopes' Mothers Clinic in central London. The organisation was named in recognition of the origins of the building and Stopes' "pioneering work in family planning", MSI claimed.

Explaining the name change, MSI CEO Simon Cooke said: "Marie Stopes was a pioneer for 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.

"The name of the organisation has been a topic of discussion for many years and the events of 2020 have reaffirmed that changing our name is the right decision. As we look to the future, we are reflecting our fundamental focus in our new name, MSI Reproductive Choices."

Responding to the announcement, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) called Stopes' views on the poor, the disabled and ethnic minorities "horrific", noting that she had once called for compulsory sterilisation to "...ensure the sterility of the hopelessly rotten and racially the elimination of wasteful lives". 

The pro-life charity said that while she may have been a "pioneer of family planning", it would "be a stretch to say that she was motivated by women's choice".

"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," the organisation said.

"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." 

Responding to the change of name, 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?"