Marie Stopes, a eugenic pioneer and namesake of one of the UK’s largest providers of abortions, could find her name removed from plaques at her former university after renewed interest in her role as a pioneer of eugenics and an alleged racist.
Following pressure from staff and students, a committee of inquiry is investigating the historical links of University College London (UCL) with a number of historical eugenicists, including Charles Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton, in addition to Marie Stopes.
The university currently commemorates Stopes – who became a fellow of UCL in 1910 – for her scientific achievements, but questions are being raised as to the appropriateness of this given her many unsavoury views.
Marie Stopes – whose name lives on most famously in the abortion provider, Marie Stopes International – is well-known to have advocated for the state forced sterilisation of what she called the “ever increasing stock of degenerate, feeble-minded and unbalanced…”
Her views on ethnicity and race are also considered deeply problematic. For example, in 1934 she publicly stated that ‘the half-caste’ should be sterilised at birth and she even sent Adolf Hitler love letters.
Geneticist Veronica van Heyningen, President of the Galton Institute – named after Francis Galton, another eugenicist whose views are being questioned – suggested that the university could install plaques explaining the achievements – and the historical wrongs – of a particular scientist. But their names should not be removed, she added.
The abortion provider, Marie Stopes International, has been criticised for continuing Stopes’ own racist and eugenicist legacy due to their abortion provision in developing countries. Last year, a number of their centres were shut down in Niger because they were said to be performing illegal abortions, and in Kenya for illegally promoting abortion.
Clare McCarthy from Right To Life UK said: “It shouldn’t be controversial to say that Marie Stopes was a racist and eugenicist. She believed in the ‘elimination of wasteful lives’.”
“The only surprising thing is that it has apparently taken UCL so many years to acknowledge her loathsome views.”
“Questions need to be asked why one of the world’s largest abortion providers – Marie Stopes International – continues to bear her name.”