WASHINGTON, D.C., May 8, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Pro-life groups and several Members of Congress are in the minority in opposing a bill that would honor Margaret Sanger, among others, in a National Women's History Museum.
Yesterday, the passage of H.R. 863, which created a "Commission to Study the Potential Creation of a National Women’s History Museum," passed the House 383-33, with 15 representatives not voting. One of those who opposed the bill was Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-MN, who spoke against the bill on the House floor.
"A 'No' vote on the current legislation ... very simply is a vote for the pro-life movement, a vote to stand up for traditional marriage, and a vote to stand up for the traditional family," Bachmann said. She also pointed to how 20 women's museums exist in America, "including one affiliated with the Smithsonian Museum."
Specifically, Bachmann said that while "a few of the museum's proposed exhibits are worthy," including one highlighting Bachmann's five natural children and "our 23 foster children," there is "an overwhelming bias" in favor of "radical feminism" and "liberal ideology." She criticized the Museum proposal to honor Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, a eugenicist, saying the exhibits attempt to "whitewash her abhorrent views."
H.R. 863, the text of which can be seen here, is the first of several steps towards building the proposed museum. Specifically, it calls for a Commission to be created that has eight people, including a chairman, and timelines for when certain recommendations -- including where the museum should be built along the National Mall -- are due. Assuming H.R. 863 passes through the Senate and is signed by President Obama, a second piece of legislation would have to be passed and signed in order for the museum to actually be constructed on the land recommended by the Commission.
Huelskamp said opposing an honor to Sanger goes "beyond politics," saying that "it is about honoring the dignity of life in this country -- not promoters of abortion, supporters of Hitler eugenics, and other assaults on human rights."
Concerned Women for America CEO and President Penny Nance likewise critiqued the legislation because "the proposed museum’s website references Margaret Sanger nine times and Victoria Woodhull over 20, while referencing Phyllis Schlafly only once and not mentioning Beverly LaHaye at all. It also highlights Sandra Fluke, while ignoring Jeane Kirkpatrick." One section of the non-profit organization dedicated to building the museum's website (seen here) references Sanger's efforts to create and spread birth control, but mentions none of her beliefs and efforts for eugenics.
The site notes Sanger's fight "for the right of women to access birth control information and devices."
According to National Women's History Museum spokesperson Susan Murphy, Bachmann's comments are "unfortunate." She told LifeSiteNews.com that "there is so much more" to "women's history" than "being about abortion," noting that "this organization, in no way, is looking to promote leftist ideologies." She said that her group "believe[s] women from every political party should be represented, but when you think about people like Clara Barton or Sybil Luddington -- a 16-year old who rode further than Paul Revere to warn that the British were coming, but nobody's ever heard of her -- or other women people have never heard of, that's what this museum is for."
"It's unfortunate that women's history is being politicized," said Murphy, who also said that "the website is NOT necessarily reflective of what will be in a physical museum."
An original cosponsor of the legislation was Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-TN, who earlier this year received an award from the SBA List for her pro-life work. In a comment to LifeSiteNews.com and other media, Blackburn said "H.R. 863 provides the way forward to ensure that a national women’s history museum honors the contribution from conservative women without spending one dime of taxpayer money."
"This is not a new issue," continued the Congresswoman. "Conservatives like Congresswoman Michele Bachmann were praising the museum’s online content back in 2011. Despite the museum’s support we went ahead and included additional conservative safeguards in the legislation."
Those safeguards include a requirement that the Commission would recommend a way for only private funds to be used for the museum's construction "in perpetuity," and an "independent review" of the plan to see "whether the plan is likely to achieve the level of resources necessary to fund the construction, operations and maintenance of the Museum in perpetuity without reliance on appropriations of federal funds."
Blackburn said that the bill would not "create a museum that would portray women as monolithic in their views on abortion as well as other issues of concern to women." She indicated she wants many women involved, noting that "the best way to have the work of conservative women recognized is to have strong conservatives at the table as active participants when a potential museum is being considered, which is exactly why I asked Penny Nance to serve as a member of the commission.”
Previous, but different, versions of H.R. 863 passed the 108th Senate and 109th Senate, and the 111th House. Both Senate passages took place under GOP control of the chamber, and the House passage took place under Democratic leadership. CWA House Legislative Director Shari Randall told LifeSiteNews.com that "the legislation that passed yesterday is different than what passed the House in 2010. Yesterday, the House passed legislation which would establish a commission to consider the creation of a National Women’s History Museum. The legislation in 2010 was to get the property (a specific location) to create the museum."
The 2010 version passed by a voice vote, unlike Wednesday's vote.
Despite Democratic control of the House and Senate, the 2010 legislation did not become law because Sens. Coburn, R-OK, and DeMint, R-SC, halted it in their chamber. Coburn Communications Director John Hart directed LifeSiteNews.com to a July 29, 2010 letter from Coburn and DeMint citing the potential costs to the taxpayer if the non-profit overseeing the museum's construction was unable to raise the total funds needed for construction and continuation of the museum's existence. When asked about H.R. 863, Hart told LifeSiteNews.com that Coburn's "position hasn't changed."
One of the concerns cited in the Coburn/DeMint letter was that only five million dollars had been raised from 1996 to 2006. According to Murphy, however, "we are far ahead of other museums that were at this stage." She said that the non-profit has raised $14 million since its creation 16 years ago, and that "once the site is identified, designs are done that fit the space, and Congress has passed a bill approving the Committee's recommendations, etc." a ‘capital campaign’ would then be engaged."
"It's hard to get people to donate to an idea," she said.
H.R. 863 was opposed and "scored" by CWA, Heritage Action, and other groups that opposed its passage. According to Heritage Action spokesperson Katherine Rosario, "we are concerned the museum will become a shrine to the liberal movement, radical feminism, and abortion. The museum's current website mentions liberal, feminist women leaders more frequently and more favorably than their conservative counterparts. As such, it is very likely that the museum would present a one-sided, liberal view of women's history in America."
When asked how such a bill got through the GOP-dominated House, Rosario said "politics loomed large in yesterday's vote." It has been thought by some critics that the bill was passed to dilute the "War on Women" messaging from Democrats ahead of the 2014 election.
Live Action Communications Director Drew Belsky said that "for the eugenicist Margaret Sanger to be featured in a women's history museum once, as a cautionary tale, might make sense. But to commemorate this woman in nine mentions is not only absurd, but insulting to men and women both."
"Sanger, in founding America's largest abortion corporation, laid the groundwork for the deaths and the degradation of millions of women," continued Belsky. "Planned Parenthood takes a macabre 'no judgment' stance on sex-selective abortion against baby girls, even helping expectant mothers to destroy their girls in the womb in the hope of conceiving boys. It peddles a horrific procedure that is strongly linked to various cancers, depression, and suicidality in mothers – and that is undeniably connected to the gruesome dismemberment of those mothers' defenseless children."
"In 1973, our judicial branch sponsored abortion, a black mark on the history of America. Now, in 2014, our legislative branch has sponsored Margaret Sanger, whose legacy is a black mark on the history of women," Belsky concluded.
A spokesperson for House Speaker John Boehner, R-OH, told LifeSiteNews.com that it "is not the intent or effect of this legislation" to honor pro-abortion women.