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Margaret Sanger founds the National Birth Control League

1921

 

The National Birth Control League was formed in 1921 with the mission of providing education about preventing pregnancy in fertile women. Under the operation of the League, lectures on the subject of birth control were given and as a result many influential people were convinced and won to the cause. Many Protestant organizations were early supporters of birth control and they helped financially with the League's operation. Today the League is part of the Planned Parenthood Federation. Planned Parenthood today provides birth control and legal abortions for women.

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One of the leading founders of this group was a nurse named Margaret Sanger. She worked in New York and brought birth control information and practices to women. In 1916 she and her sister opened a birth control clinic in New York, where diaphragms, a birth control device used by women to prevent pregnancies were given away. She was also a leading protester of the Comstock Law, an 1873 law which prohibited indecent information or information concerning abortion to be sent through the mail. She was arrested several times, refusing to abide by the rules against distribution of information regarding birth control.

Sanger was influenced by reading Thomas Malthus, an economist who wrote in "Essay on the Principle of Population" that population tends to increase faster than food supplies. To reduce births, he encouraged young men and women to postpone marriage. Sanger went further and supported the idea of eugenics, or, "good genes." She believed that birth control should be used to improve the genetic makeup of the human race and applied this belief to the social and medical fields. She wrote several books in addition to her newspaper "The Rebel" and her magazine "The Birth Control Review." Included in her works are the titles: "Pivot of Civilization," 1922 (book); "Code to Stop the Overproduction of Children," 1934 (book); and "Birth Control of the Negro," 1939, (proposal). Eugenics remains one of the most controversial aspects of the National Birth Control League.

In all, there may be several issues which may be in contrast with moral, philosophical and personal constructs within the structure of the National Birth Control League. One thing is eugenics; a second thing is birth control; a third item is abortion. All three of these items are connected at the base of the National Birth Control League, primarily because one of the founders is a spokesperson for all of these things.

The issues surrounding human reproductive systems and customs are many. Just as medical science studies anatomy to understand how bones are configured, where vital organs are located, how to recognize symptoms of illness of temporary and long-term term nature, terminal disease, so medical science also seeks to understand how reproduction is achieved. Understanding any function of the body, such as breathing, can possibly include knowledge of several systems, such as the respiratory and the nervous system. The reproductive system of the human body has been the focus of controversy. In the United States of the early 1900's and well into the latest years of the twentieth century arguments about issues of reproduction claimed attention.


Bibliography:

Encyclopedia Brittanica, Inc. Chicago, 1992.

Bahr, Lauren Collier's Encyclopedia Vol. 20. P.F. Collier. New York 1992.

The Wall Street Journal "The Repackaging of Margaret Sanger," Steven.W Mosher Monday, May 5, 1997.


Researched and Written by: Allyson C. Mauck

Significantly revised Aug 1999

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