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National Por­trait Gallery | Courtesy

This fall, Hillsdale’s Stu­dents for Life joined the growing cam­paign to remove the bust of Mar­garet Sanger, founder of Planned Par­enthood, from the “Struggle for Justice” exhibit in the National Por­trait Gallery in Wash­ington, D.C. through peti­tionary action.

The petition enu­merates the club’s griev­ances with Sanger, which include her use of birth control and abortion as pop­u­lation sup­pres­sants in African-American com­mu­nities. They feel that this an insult to the integrity of the exhibit, which was created to feature indi­viduals who fought for the rights of society’s mar­gin­alized, espe­cially since Sanger was also involved in the eugenics movement, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Nazi Party.

“[Sanger’s] life’s work was to elim­inate those who she deemed “lesser”, mostly through the atrocity of abortion,” said Erik Halvorson, Sec­retary of Stu­dents for Life. “ As of now, she sits among great figures such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. in the ‘Struggle for Justice’ exhibit. This is a dis­grace seeing as her ide­ology is the com­plete antithesis of theirs.”

So far, 266 stu­dents, faculty, and com­munity members have signed the petition since Pres­ident of Stu­dents for Life Kathleen Russo set it in motion this summer.

“I actually had the idea while was reading a book this summer, ‘Mer­chants of Despair,’” Russo said. “It talks about Sanger’s involvement in eugenics and how the rise of Planned Par­enthood was part of a repack­aging of eugenics into pop­u­lation control and how that was mar­keted to the country and the world in the 1950s and 1960s.”

Hillsdale’s Stu­dents for Life is not the first to attempt to remove Sanger’s bust from the exhibit. In 2014, a group of African-American pastors called ForAmerica undertook a similar quest, but their efforts were rebuffed by Kim Sajet, director of the gallery. Sajet wrote a letter to the pres­ident of the group explaining that the “Struggle for Justice” exhibit was intended to high­light figures who have cham­pioned the civil rights of mar­gin­alized groups, and that Mar­garet Sanger fits into that cat­egory, regardless of her history with eugenics.

“There is no ‘moral test’ for people to be accepted into the National Por­trait Gallery,” Sajet said in a letter according to CNSNews.

While Stu­dents for Life’s ultimate goal is to per­suade the National Por­trait Gallery to remove the bust from the gallery, it rec­og­nizes that this may not be pos­sible. Therefore they are focusing their cam­paign not only on filing the petition, but also on spreading awareness about the issue.

“The problem with Mar­garet Sanger is that she is so cel­e­brated when there is such blatant evi­dence that she was actually racist,” Russo said. “If we can just shed some light, and maybe change the tide of this movement, that would be awesome. There is just a huge dis­crepancy between the reality and the mes­saging. We are trying to bring these two things back together.”

The National Por­trait Gallery did not respond to a request for comment.