Margaret Sanger, "Southern States Tour Statement," 12 Nov 1938.
Source: "Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of CongressLibrary of Congress Microfilm 130:754."
This press release was issued by the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau. A handwritten addition was made by one of Sanger's secretarial staff.
On my return from a recent tour of several Southern states, I am more than ever convinced that it must become a necessary government function to provide birth control service through public health agencies to those who cannot afford the services of private physicians. Civic officials and leaders of social welfare organizations where I visited all regard birth control as the most immediate and important step in the solution of the problems of the various blighted areas, to halt “human erosion”. Everywhere meetings were overcrowded, not by the curious, not by those seeking personal information, but mostly by officials and those actively working among the indigent and the unfit, who sought knowledge and a fresh viewpoint for constructive social work.
In one community I visited, 50% of the total area was designated as blighted”, yet this area contains 54% of the population, 58% of the child population 10 years of age and under, 67% of the white and 83% of the children appearing in Juvenile Courts on delinquency charges, 82% of the relief clients, 80% of the tuberculosis cases, 70% of the infant and maternal mortality among the white population, and 90% among the colored. This is the area of poor housing, inadequate income, dependency and disease. Yet this area is only one of thousands throughout the nation. Any slum section of New York or Chicago would reveal the same conditions, in practically the same proportion, creating similar problems.
While it is true that the Federal Government is spreading out its protective hands and building new homes for the occupants in these slum sections, it is the consensus of opinion that environment alone will not change the habits of this population, and within 10 years, with their unchecked potency for child-bearing, there will naturally be an extension of the problem, and an even greater tax burden placed upon the small portion of the population left to pay the bills.
It is now known that 13 of the Southern States have populations of which over 97% are native-born, providing an unparalleled opportunity for a reconstruction program to improve not only the environment but the innate quality of our national life. Here indeed is material to excite the imagination.
I found nothing but the most receptive attitude on the part of the people themselves towards receiving birth control advice, and also I found the will to give this service among those in closest touch with the human need. But obstacles come from the top, from a few officials and arrogant clergymen who set their wills against public good, and intimidate nurses, social workers, and medical agencies from providing this service to parents who vainly ask it. It is at their doors that the increasing human misery in these groups must be laid. They are trying to solve 20th century problems with the dogma of the dark ages, and men and women everywhere must refuse them this power.
Very soon there will be a request made to Congress by the Federal Government for a new appropriation of $850,000,000 to improve public health. No doubt a large portion of this huge sum asked of the tax-payers, will be sought to increase existing health and welfare services for mothers and children. No greater service could be given to the mothers and to the children among that enormous group of 20,000,000 individuals dependent upon some form of public aid, than to provide birth control knowledge to enable them to help themselves by not adding to their own misery through increasing the number who must share it. In 1937, out of the 2,000,000 babies born in this country, 1,100,000 were born to parents on relief with incomes of less than $1000 a year.
It behooves, therefore, the mean and women who have the welfare of the future of this country at heart to ask, nay to demand, of their Representatives in Congress, that included in the provisions of this legislation must be the right of these parents to obtain birth control information through health agencies supported by public funds. Such a measure will not only give constructive, immediate relief to millions of families, and prevent additional suffering, but would be the greatest forward step ever taken on a national scale to raise the level of intelligence of the nation’s population, and the quality of life.
There are two other suggestions I would like to make: (1) Throughout the country our institutions are overcrowded with the insane, the feeble-minded, and the diseased. Thousands of human beings, buried alive, who can contribute nothing to their generation other than to use up the vital energies of those who must care for them. The cost of maintaining our derelict population is nothing compared to the loss of creative effort which might be utilized in other channels. Why should our Benevolent Federal Government not make a constructive investment in the quality of our future citizenship by offering pensions to all those in the child-bearing age with transmissible or hereditary diseases who will agree to sterilization? Here truly is a system of pensioning that will bring its own reward.
Couple this with another appropriation ↑as an aid to marriage↓ for those healthy, intelligent young men and women, skilled artisans, professionals, agriculturists, who wish to marry and would welcome a family, if only there were some provision to tide them through possible emergencies in first few years until they could become entirely self-supporting. Money spent of a population of sound minds in healthy bodies that must inevitably promote and insure individual and national welfare.
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project