Abortion provider changes name over Marie Stopes’ views on eugenics

Marie Stopes
Marie Stopes (PA Archive)
0:01am, Tue 17 Nov 2020
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A leading abortion provider has changed its name to distance itself from Marie Stopes deeming her views on eugenics in “stark contrast” to the charity’s values.

Marie Stopes International will be known as MSI Reproductive Choices from Tuesday, breaking its connection to the woman who paved the way for family planning.

The charity said the name change sends “a clear signal that we neither adhere to nor condone” her beliefs around eugenics.

Stopes set up Britain’s first birth control clinic in 1921 in Holloway, north London, in the face of medical and religious opposition.

The Marie Stopes Mothers’ Clinic later moved to Whitfield Street, in central London, giving women advice and contraception.

In 1976, on hearing that the clinic was in financial difficulty and due to close, Dr Tim Black purchased the lease to the building, founding the modern organisation.

It became the first of more than 600 Marie Stopes International clinics around the world.

MSI Reproductive Choices said her legacy has become “deeply entangled” with her views on eugenics and wanted to address the “understandable misapprehensions that MSI had a meaningful connection to her and her views”.

Stopes was a member of the Eugenics Society, and she also advocated for the sterilisation of people considered unfit for parenthood.

MSI Reproductive Choices said these views, “though not uncommon at that time, are now rightly discredited”, and directly oppose the charity’s values of choice and autonomy.

Stopes also opposed abortion, which remained illegal until 1967.

Simon Cooke, MSI Reproductive Choices chief executive, 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.”

The new name also reflects the organisation’s global vision: that, within a decade, no abortion will be unsafe and everyone will be able to access contraception.

Mr Cooke added: “Our founders believed that by providing high quality, compassionate and comprehensive contraceptive and abortion care, they could support women’s empowerment, and their vision of reproductive choice for all is just as relevant today as it was in 1976.

“This decade has opened with many uncertainties, but what we can be sure of is that the need for sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights will remain universal and urgent.”

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