The racist roots of Marie Stopes International
According to its own UK website, “Marie Stopes International is the UK's leading provider of sexual and reproductive healthcare services”(1). During the three years from 2007 to 2009 inclusive, Marie Stopes clinics performed an average of 5,066 abortions per month in England alone(2).
The exact cost of an abortion varies from case to case, but the figures quoted on its own website start at £510 for a medical abortion(3). In practice, more than 90 per cent of abortions carried out by private providers like Marie Stopes are paid for by the NHS. The NHS tariff for surgical abortions (2010-11 figures) averages around £600(4). An average of £600 per abortion would generate an annual income of over £36 million for abortions carried out by this one organisation in England alone; the killing of the unborn child is big business.
Marie Stopes is not just a UK organisation, however. According to its own figures, it carried out 920,000 abortions across 43 countries in 2009, experiencing its largest annual growth ever with an increase in the abortion total of more than 50 per cent in one year alone(5).
According to another Marie Stopes website, “Marie Stopes International grew out of the organisation originally set up by Marie Stopes in 1921”(6). Stopes was born in 1880 in Edinburgh. Influenced by the American Margaret Sanger, Stopes established her reputation by writing a book called Married Love. This was followed by a contraception guide entitled Wise Parenthood.
One might think that Marie Stopes International would trumpet the credentials of the woman whose name the organisation bears. In fact, though, it is surprising that the body still dares to carry the name of its indirect founder, for two reasons. The first is that although Stopes was a keen advocate of contraception and enforced sterilisation, she observed the “desolating effects of abortion and attempted abortion” and noted that her “message coincides with that of all the Churches in condemning utterly the taking of even an embryonic life”. So she was explicitly anti-abortion. At the same time, though, she was a racist, a sycophantic Nazi sympathiser and a bigoted monster. Anyone who is starry-eyed about her promotion of contraception for the benefit of protecting women is completely misunderstanding her motives.
Very shortly before the outbreak of World War II, Stopes wrote to Hitler sending him a copy of some poems she had written:
“Dear Herr Hitler, Love is the greatest thing in the world: so will you accept from me these (poems) that you may allow the young people of your nation to have them?"
Three years later, when the Jewish holocaust was at its height, her verses were still flowing and she wrote another poem containing the lines:
“Catholics and Prussians, The Jews and the Russians,
All are a curse, or something worse”(7).
Stopes’ ideas were influenced by the theories expounded by (among others) the socialist homosexual Edward Carpenter and by Havelock Ellis (an experimenter with mescaline – now a Class A drug in the USA – and vice president of the Eugenics Education Society). Stopes herself became a life fellow of that elitist body. Her second book was dedicated "to all those who wish to see our race grow in strength and beauty". In her defence, it has been argued that eugenics was a respectable science at the time, but arguably that only enhances the guilt attaching to this woman: she was no mere passive follower of the movement, but an active promoter.
Stopes was in favour of child labour and opposed the prolonging of education for the lower classes as this imposed financial burdens on the rich. In 1919, she wrote to the National Birth Rate Commission seeking to enforce sterilisation of any who were “diseased, drunk or of bad character”. She wanted to free the “better classes” from the burden of supporting hospitals filled by “inferior stock”. By passing Bills to “ensure the sterility of the hopelessly rotten and racially diseased” she wanted to achieve in the British Isles “a new and irradiated race”. She talked of the “puny and utterly unsatisfactory” children of the poor. She condemned blind people who chose to have children, was hostile to marriages between different racial groups and praised the “pristine purity of a girl of our northern race”. In her second book, she argued that “only children with the chance of attaining strong, beautiful and intelligent maturity should be conceived”. According to a Daily Telegraph blog, “her 1921 slogan was: ‘Joyful and Deliberate Motherhood, A Safe Light in our Racial Darkness’”(8).
Little wonder that this woman who so wholly embraced the idea of a master race and who spoke so disparagingly of Jews, Catholics and various foreigners chose to send love poems to Adolf Hitler. Little wonder either that four years earlier, in 1935, she had been welcomed to Berlin to attend the International Congress for Population Science, sponsored by the Nazis. According to the report from that conference, “Marie Stopes demanded that scientifically trained minds examine the prerequisites for human conception and give directions for regulating them from the point of view of breeding up the human stock”. We can only speculate as to the extent to which her views influenced the tragic events that unfolded over the following ten years.
Stopes’ son Harry was set to marry one Mary Wallis, daughter of the man who invented the “bouncing bomb” made famous in The Dam Busters. But Mary wore glasses. Marie Stopes was furious, commenting that it would be “a crime against his country which increasingly needs fine and perfect people”. She went on to say that “Mary has an inherited physical defect and morally should never bear children”. Of her son she declared that “both his father's line and mine are free from all defect. It is awful to both my husband and me that he should contaminate his splendid inheritance and make a mock of our life's work for eugenic breeding and the race”. Her view was that it would be “cruel to burden children with defective sight and the handicap of goggles” and she declared that she would not “in any way take part in or condone the planning of these crimes”.
When the marriage went ahead anyway, Harry was cut out of his mother’s will. On her death in 1958, she left a small house in trust to her eldest grandson but to her own son, never forgiven for his marriage to a physically imperfect wife, she left just a dictionary. Part of her estate went to the Eugenics Society(9) with the bulk going to the Royal Society of Literature.
Stopes’ opening of her first birth control clinics, in the poor areas of London, was not at all an act of philanthropy but one of protecting the vested interests of the rich. She built up a small network of clinics which were taken over in 1975 by Marie Stopes International, and have continued to bear the name of their racist founder.
Her biographer describes Stopes’ central belief as “that the human race could be improved by the eugenic application of birth control” (10). In the end, though, Stopes’ personal agenda went way beyond contraception and the building of a purified British race. In 1925, she admitted that she was “out for a much greater thing than birth-control. I am out to smash the tradition of organised Christianity”.
UK readers of the Guardian were clearly either ignorant or were extremely generous in forgiving all the racist, pro-Nazi, eugenicist views of this woman as they elected her “woman of the millennium” in 1999(11). The Post Office was similarly ignorant or forgiving as it created a 50p stamp featuring her in 2008. The organisation that bears her name and that carries out the slaughter of the unborn on a massive scale throughout the world clearly has no shame in being associated with her.
(1) See www.mariestopes.org.uk/.
(7) Quoted in Marie Stopes by Ruth Hall 1977, p. 288.
(9) See www.nndb.com/people/572/000024500/.
(10) Quoted in Marie Stopes by Ruth Hall 1977, p. 326.