Who is Alan Guttmacher?

When taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood became a significant topic earlier this year, the organization’s mission was scrutinized. Planned Parenthood Federation’s mission, as stated in its tax form, included, “to provide leadership…in achieving, through informed individual choice, a U.S. population of stable size in an optimum environment.”

This led liberal commentator Kirsten Powers to conclude that “it is, in reality, a population-control organization.”

Such sentiments were deliberately promoted by Planned Parenthood’s second president, Dr. Alan Frank Guttmacher (1898-1974), who according to a 1965 issue of Current Biography “said that the world has two overriding problems–the control of atomic energy and the population explosion. He is dedicated to the alleviation of the latter.”

Guttmacher, the son of a rabbi and a social worker from Maryland, was an obstetrician and gynecologist who earned his M.D. from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1923. Guttmacher had a sister and an identical twin brother, Manfred Guttmacher, who worked as a medical advisor to Baltimore’s Supreme Bench.

Guttmacher reportedly joined the birth control movement in the 1920s after seeing a woman die from a botched abortion when he was an intern at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Guttmacher is said to have been one of the first doctors in the U.S. to staunchly support artificial insemination, a process he defended as “decent and humane” as opposed to “illegal and adulterous.” He authored many books on the subject of pregnancy and birth control, including The Complete Book of Birth Control (Ballantine, 1961).

At a Planned Parenthood Federation of America conference in 1953, Guttmacher reportedly defended the business of abortionists and vouched for more liberal abortion laws, saying “Those of us who carry out what we honestly consider to be needed therapeutic abortions … do so with a haunting feeling that our acts are half illegal or pseudo-legal. I am not satisfied with the current laws because obstetrics and gynecology cannot operate honestly within their framework.”

Guttmacher became president of Planned Parenthood in 1962, when he resigned from being chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Mt. Sinai Hospital. Some credit Guttmacher more than Margaret Sanger as a force for expanding America’s abortion laws:

“Sanger was not an advocate of abortion reform, yet a new generation of leaders at Planned Parenthood soon began to pave the way for that movement. At the group’s annual meeting in 1942, Alan Guttmacher, chief of obstetrics at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, became one of the first physicians to call for the liberalization of the country’s abortion laws.”

- Wrath of angels: The American abortion war by James Risen and Judy Thomas

A father of three daughters himself, Guttmacher was called “the father of birth control in the United States” and worked as a vice president of the American Eugenics Society. Guttmacher campaigned for his cause religiously:

“No woman is completely free unless she is wholly capable of controlling her fertility and…no baby receives its full birthright unless it is born gleefully wanted by its parents.”

Within the PPFA, Guttmacher helped develop the Center for Family Planning Program Development, which after his death in 1974 was renamed the Guttmacher Institute in his honor.

Guttmacher’s nephew, Dr. Alan E. Guttmacher, is now the director of the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development.