Warning: Use of undefined constant editmode - assumed 'editmode' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /home/mspporg/sangerpapers.org/includes/docheader.php on line 49

Margaret Sanger, "Birth Control Steps Out: A Note on the Senate Hearing," Apr 1931.

Source: " People, Apr. 1931, pp. 27-28Library of Congress Microfilm 128:539."

People editor introduced the article with brief summary of Sanger's testimony for the Gillett Bill.




The essential object of the Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control in presenting the bill S. 4582, was to amend the federal laws so that motherhood shall be conscious and controlled. This was the first time such a bill had been introduced and this bill as presented by our Chairman Senator Gillett may yet be the future foundation of The Mother’s Bill of Rights.

We want mothers to have proper scientific instruction through the channels of the medical profession which will enable them to control the size of the family.

We want them to have such knowledge that they may space the period between the births of children in consideration of the mother’s health, the father’s earning capacity and the future welfare of the child.

We want parenthood to be regarded as something beyond and above a casual accident or a punishment as a result of shiftlessness and recklessness.

Parenthood when it is responsible can be a noble trust or a proud commission--an honored assignment-- and this can be accomplished only by taking it out of the sphere of accident and placing it in the sphere of conscious responsibility.

The laws that this bill S.4582 will amend have classed the information relating to the prevention of conception with obscenity, pornography, indecency and abortion; such information does not belong there.

Section 211 was passed by Congress in 1873. At that time there was very little known regarding the subject, the technique of contraception, but in spite of these laws there has been a gradual awakening as to its need and necessity for more complete information. These laws make no exception for medical societies, medical schools, journals, reprints or books or a scientific character. These laws make no exception to physicians in their regular practice, nor for hospitals or clinics, nor for the patients of such doctors; nor for any of the other organizations, so necessary for the proper distribution of medical supplies.

These laws interfere with the publication of authorized scientific and medical books, for no publisher will risk or jeopardize his freedom in the publication of any book where there is a law against its circulation.

The laws interfere with the importation of articles of research and reports from clinics of other countries which would gradually advance the knowledge of the medical profession in this country on this subject. The medical schools are unable today to obtain scientific data from other universities or from laboratories or from scientific research going on in other parts of the world.

These laws interfere with the proper dissemination of this information in many states of the Union where there are laws enabling the physicians to give such advice within their own states. There are today in this country over fifty legally established, medically directed birth control clinics especially designed for the purpose of instructing patients who are entitled to receive such instruction under the law of the state in which they reside. These clinics are distributed throughout twelve states, and this law, section 211, makes it a crime for me or for anyone to send to a mother or sister or relative, poor or diseased as she may be, the address of any of those clinics, several of which may be operating legally in her own state.

This law interferes with the transportation of supplies from the manufacturer to the clinics, or from the retail druggist to the doctors operating in their respective states. No one is enabled to send the address of these clinics to anyone else except in violation of the federal law.

Our annual reports covering the work of these clinics carrying data regarding the effect of contraception or describing the articles used by the patients cannot be sent to doctors or to other clinics without a violation of the law.

The bill that was introduced and upon which the committee has not yet acted, requests that certain exceptions be made in this law.

We ask that the section shall not apply to information when published within or without the United States by any governmental agency, medical society, medical school or medical journal, nor to reprints after any such publication.

We ask that it shall not apply to any licensed physician or hospital or clinic when sent by them to any other physician, hospital or clinic. We ask that it shall not apply to anyone who may send the name and address of any physician, hospital, or clinic, where such advice is legally given.

We also ask that it shall not apply to any of the articles that may be used for this purpose when sent by wholesale or retail dealers in medical supplies to the physicians, hospitals or clinics, or when sent by a physician to any of his patients.

This bill as presented is conservative, logical and constructive.

There is nothing in this bill which we ask of Congress which compels the use of contraception by any individual or group which may for religious or other personal reasons object to it. There is nothing compelling anyone to use such information but we do ask the member of Congress to give to millions of mothers who desire it throughout the country the right to have proper scientific information through the proper channels by qualified medical persons.

We want no wholesome distribution of indecency nor pornography. We leave the law exactly as it was except we remove the subject of prevention of conception from it and place it in the hands of the medical profession where it rightly belongs.

Most of us believe that the original object of these laws was to prevent the dissemination of pornographical literature through the United States mails and to restrict its entrance into this country at a time when little was known about scientific contraception. We fully concur in this restriction.

We believe, however, that to place medical or scientific information or literature in this class is unjust, unfair to the inhabitants of this country; that it places a great hardship upon the future progress and achievements of our welfare activities.

The effect of keeping this law on the statue books is to increase surreptitious, harmful, unscientific information which increases crime, multiplying abortions.

This law in effect has already been responsible directly and indirectly for the deaths of approximately one million mothers and for the deaths of fifteen millions of children many of whom were born unwanted and in conditions of hardship, poverty, cruelty, and disease.

The effect of keeping this law on our statue books is to keep alive hypocrisy, evasion, and increase a general disregard for laws.

There is nothing to be gained by keeping on the statue books laws that are known to be inimical to personal health, family happiness and racial development.

Subject Terms:

Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project