Margaret Sanger, "Sixth International Conference on Planned Parenthood Opening Address," 14 Feb 1952.

Source: "Sixth International Conference on Planned Parenthood, Report of the Proceedings 14-21 Feb. 1959, pp. 10-11 Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Smith College Collections S72:0983."

Sanger gave this speech to open the Sixth International Conference on Planned Parenthood in New Delhi, India. Other speakers included Jawaharlal Nehru and Dhanvanthi Rama Rau.


President, International Planned Parenthood Federation

Mr. Nehru, Lady Rama Rau, Distinguished Friends and Governing Body, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends and Co-workers:

This is one of the greatest days of joy of my life to have traveled from Arizona through California and Hawaii and to come here to India, and to hear the greatest living statesman of the world today, Mr. Nehru, open this Conference. It is a day that I did not think would come quite so soon. I knew that eventually it had to come, and it must come from officials of various governments who have the intelligence to see its importance. I also want to congratulate the women of India, for when I was here in 1936 the All India Women’s Conference at that time held a meeting and passed a resolution asking the Municipalities, I think of Bombay and other cities, that they should give contraceptive information to the women of the community and from that time up to this day you have made great strides. Lady Rama Rau has been a wonderful leader, a distinguished speaker, well known throughout many countries of the world, and she has really inspired a great many in this country and other countries. It is a wonderful thing to have the women of the country co-operate with the government, but better yet to have a government co-operate with the women. There are several things that I would like to say. I wish I could have time, or had time, to pay tribute to the vast number of pioneers who through their scholarly writings, addresses and thinking have left to us marvelous ideas. There really isn’t time to tell about them all, from the days of Malthus to the present time, but in one way we do pay tribute to them because we are using and expressing their opinions, their writings and their thoughts in nearly every address that any of us makes. There are some basic principles that I should like to tell you about which concern the International Planned Parenthood Federation movement. The first is, that it has, as we see it, almost a duty and a responsibility to help married couples, or those about to be married, to acquire knowledge of contraception. It is also our aim to inspire research work, so that there will be simpler contraceptives for the more ignorant, simple-minded people who know little about anatomy or physiology. The second is, that we want to have such information advocated and guided by the medical profession. But I want to say, beware of many of those who have an MD behind their names! I do not think all of them are suitable to give the kind of information, the sympathy, the understanding to the shy, simple woman who comes to them, asking for information as to how to space her pregnancies, and how to take care of the children that she has already borne. One of our duties, of course, is to co-operate with the health and welfare departments of the country, and you in India have already done that, and it seems to me that a great educational campaign must go on and on to achieve the health necessary to bring children into the world: the health of the mother, the health of the father and the healthy atmosphere of the home. I was very happy to hear the address of the Health Minister here today, and for him I would like to just add a few of the principles of family planning that I think should be widespread in every country in the world. The first is that, with a Health Ministry alive and alert to the evils of venereal or other transmissible disease, no couple with a transmissible disease should be allowed to have children. Secondly, there are certain disorders--tuberculosis, and heart and kidney disease--which should be cured, or at least arrested, before a woman becomes pregnant. That also is part of the Ministry of Health’s duties. Then there is the interval of two or three years necessary to give the mother a chance to recuperate from the ordeal of childbirth and to give her time to prepare for the coming of the next. Then there is the everlasting economic state, especially of the father, whose earnings might possibly take care of two children, keep them in health and educate them, but which are quite inadequate to take care of ten or twelve. That is when they come to need outside help. Further, we must think of the children that are born with some ailment, some stigma from the past generation, and it seems to me that it is only wise to say to parents of such children: “Halt! Have no more!” Even though you do not feel that it is your own fault, there is something in the genes, something in the background, that may distribute itself to future children. I believe that there should be early marriage, but a postponement of children or pregnancies for at least two or three years. It is essential in these high pressure days that if the marriage is to be a happy one a young couple should get acquainted, should understand each other and should develop a social and cultural atmosphere in the home before they bring a baby or children into the world. These are all simple issues and responsibilities, but they are just as essential today as they were 20 or 30 years ago, when this movement first began, and it is on these principles that we have built our family planning and planned parenthood movement. In conclusion, I want to say that, even though these are all great responsibilities, there is one greater that should, I think, be in the minds of every married man and woman thinking of bringing a child into the world -- the responsibility of ushering a soul into this world to take its part in the mystery as a material being. I think if we could have about two or three generations where children are wanted and loved before they were conceived, I believe it would take only a few generations before we could really have faith in the possibility of peace on earth, goodwill to men, throughout the whole world.

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