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Margaret Sanger, "The Case for Birth Control (Excerpts)," 24 Nov 1936.

Source: "Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of CongressLibrary of Congress Microfilm 128:641."

Margaret Sanger delivered this speech at the Schenley Hotel in Pittsburgh at a meeting sponsored by the Allegheny Birth Control League. No complete version of the speech was found; this document appears to be a press release about the event.


“I urge the immediate amendment of the present federal laws which tie the hands of the physician and obstruct an adequate and scientific national birth control program. More than 1,000 organizations, with millions of members, have endorsed our efforts to change these obsolete federal laws, and 200,000 individuals have pledged their support over their personal signatures.”

“It is easy to boast about birth control clinics, and point with pride to their growth since I opened the first clinic in America in the slums of Brooklyn in 1916. This clinic, as you know, was closed as a ‘public nuisance,’ and I and my co-workers were sent to jail. Two hundred and fifty clinics in forty-three states are functioning today. But for every woman who goes to a clinic or to a private doctor and gets birth control information, there are hundreds of thousands who apply to hospitals and doctors and are denied instruction which they need to preserve health and life itself. Quack nostrums, ineffectual and often harmful contraceptive supplies may be bought at any drug store, and when these fail, women can in desperation submit to abortions. But scientific and reliable birth control instruction is the privilege of the few. The great mass of American mothers ask for it in vain.”

“Private charity can never effectively take care of this situation. As a part of preventive medicine and public health, it is work which the Government can no longer ignore. Let us clear away the legal obstructions which retard birth control work--now, at once, without further dallying. Then we can go forward to the inspiring and constructive program of giving to every mother the information which she needs, and which is her constitutional right.”

“Statistics from Pennsylvania show how great is the need in your State for scientific and reliable birth control. Maternal deaths from all causes decreased from 1136 in 1930 to 931 in 1934. Deaths from abortion, however, increased, and of those the number caused by septic poisoning also increased. Of every 100 women who die during maternity, 95 die from abortion, and of these 25, 20 die from septic poisoning which generally follows abortions performed without the proper medical safeguards. Give women birth control information and they will not have to submit to abortions.”

“Turning to the relief question, W.P.A. figures show that 147,375 families in Pennsylvania were on relief in May, 1936. This figure is estimated to represent nearly 700,000 people--men, women, and children in your State. The cost of relief in Pennsylvania for this month was $5,305,000, and the total cost for the United States for the month of May was $41,800,000.”

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Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project