Margaret Sanger, "Birth Control Campaign in East Statement," 30 Oct 1935.
Source: "Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of CongressLibrary of Congress Microfilm 130:587."
Sanger released this press statement in London, before embarking on a three-month tour of India and Asia.
I have been invited by the All India Women’s Conference to address that great body when it meets in Travancore, India in December and to conduct a campaign for birth control throughout the Country.
The first thing I must make clear is that I am not going to India in order to persuade everybody to have a small family. I want rather to convince them of the desirability--for themselves and posterity--of having families of the right size and right quality. We all agree that healthy parents of good stock, and with an income that will support several children, should have them; and if they have normal instincts will want to have them. Do not imagine that the practice of birth control is unknown in India. But there, as in the Countries of the Western World (as in England and America), it is still highly concentrated among the economically most prosperous and the educationally best endowed classes. So in my campaign I shall not be introducing into India views and a practice that do not to some small extent exist there already: But I hope to produce a better distribution of birth control practices, that is to say to disseminate it among the social, economic and biological classes in which it is most urgently needed. It is said that birth control today is dysgenic that it is resulting in ever smaller contributions to posterity from biologically well endowed families, while contributions from those families whom posterity could most easily spare have hardly abated in size since the Victorian day. I shall try to persuade the people of India that the remedy for this dangerous situation is not less birth control--a futile endeavor to turn the clock back--but more birth control. The control over their numbers that is now being exercised by responsible, well educated persons throughout the world must be exercised also by those who are not so well endowed in nature or so favorably treated by economic circumstances.
In my campaign I shall not presume to dictate to anybody in India what constitutes the proper income level for justifying each addition to the family. That is a matter that parents must and should decide for themselves. But there is nothing magical in an income; and I believe that every parent can be made to realize that an income which will just suffice to support x children will fail to support x plus 1 more. On the other hand, I shall make it clear that the estimate of how far an income can go must not be based simply on luxury. I know parents who regard an annual income of £5,000 as just sufficient for a one child family. That seems to me in its way as fantastic as the kind of sum suggested by government departments--I believe in your country it is now or shortly will be three shillings a week--as sufficing for the food, clothing, shelter and civilized amenities of a child of the working classes.
A word about population problems. It is not my intention to tell the people of India that their great country is over populated in any absolute sense. Nobody knows how large a population India could support if all her economic resources were properly developed and if the products of industry and agriculture were equitably distributed. But in a relative sense--relative that is to say to her actual resources--India in common with Japan and other countries of the East is indubitably over populated. The ultimate solution of this problem may perhaps be in an economic reorganization; but I believe birth control can make the most efficient contribution to a short-term solution. In any case, that is not the main basis of my campaign. Birth control may or may not offer a solution for population problems: What it certainly does is contribute to the health, happiness and mental poise of individual families.
I shall show in my campaign that the Indian maternity and infant mortality rates are a direct consequence of the present birth rates; that if we want to lower the former we must lower the latter. I shall show too that the low expectation of life in India is a consequence of the high birth rate, and can be raised by bringing that rate down. Above all, it will be my purpose to convince the great Indian people that between the practice of birth control and their highest conception of ethics and religion there is no inconsistency whatever.
Birth Control is one of the great liberating forces of mankind. Like the control of infection by asepsis, the control of pain by anaesthesia, the control of communicable diseases by the methods of preventive medicine, it is one step in mankind’s mastery over the blind forces of nature, a measure of his civilization and growth to maturity. It is in that aspect that I shall present birth control in my coming campaign in the East.
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project