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Margaret Sanger, "Editorials," Apr 1925.

Source: " Birth Control Review, Mar. 1925, pp. 67-68 Margaret Sanger Papers Microfilm, Smith College Collections S71:26."


Margaret Sanger

An editorial on the prevention of conception published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is especially gratifying to us as an indication that the protracted apathy of the medical profession concerning Birth Control is being replaced by intense active interest. In the London letter published in the same number we read: "A plea has been made in Guy's Hospital Gazette for the instruction of medical students in the principles and technique of contraception. In an editorial on the subject, the Lancet states that it urged this course nearly four years ago on the same grounds.... The subject is not referred to in the medical curriculum, and the majority of young physicians are not competent to weigh the social and domestic consequences of enjoining complete abstinence in married people who for economic or medical reasons should not produce a large number of children, against the alternative of giving instruction in appropriate methods of contraception."

That Birth Control is being discussed in British and American medical journals is in no small part due to the generous support given by such men as Lord Dawson in England and Dr. William Allen Pusey, President of the American Medical Association, in this country. These were not the first among medical men to express their opinion that the teaching of methods of contraception is a measure of public health. There is a whole line of medical pioneers for Birth Control, among them two great scientists now dead, Dr. Abraham Jacobi and Dr. L. Emmet Holt. The seed sown by these men is bearing fruit and the support of Dr. Pusey and Lord Dawson represents a growing interest throughout the medical profession. Where there was one physician in support ten years ago there are a score today. It is men belonging to this group of broadminded physicians whom we thank this month for our Public Health Number of BIRTH CONTROL REVIEW.

No longer is it possible to discuss seriously the cause and cure of War without reference to the world problem of over-population and its only permanent solution--Birth Control. The recent conference in Washington, D.C. on the cause and cure of war, in which nine important national organizations of American women participated, sharply and conclusively demonstrated this fact. This conference, composed in large part of delegates from organizations of a semi-religious character like the Young Women's Christian Association and Women's Christian Temperance Union and the Council of Women for Home Missions, and on the whole conservative in spirit rather than radical, nevertheless listened attentively when the problem of Birth Control was dwelt upon by three speakers--Major General John O'Ryan, Professor Warren Thompson, and Mrs. F. Robertson Jones, who at an open forum represented the Birth Control movement.

Considering the time, the place, the character of the assemblage, this triumph for our cause indicates a tremendous change in the consciousness of the five million American women represented at the conference. Opposition to the discussion of over-population and Birth Control was not voiced. Ten years ago the very mention of the idea would have shocked American clubwomen. Today, women are awakening to the great overwhelming truth that if they are actually serious in their desire to probe to the roots of War, if they wish to cure this world-disease in fact as well as in theory they must face unflinchingly unpleasant truths.

They have demonstrated that they are not yet prepared to dissect and analyze this problem. But there is every sign to indicate that once this question enters into the national consciousness of American women, they cannot logically avoid it or relegate it to the background. Birth Control is an idea so dynamic, so vital, so illuminating that it cannot reasonably be set aside.

Mrs. Robertson-Jones brilliantly, briefly and eloquently in her short talk in the forum on "causes of war," presented with almost scientific precision the structural relation of war, over-population and Birth Control. She said:

"SEVERAL of our speakers on the causes of war have agreed that economic conditions are its fundamental causes. And if we examined the economic conditions that breed war we find that over-population is responsible for many of these. If a nation needs more raw material, or new markets, or more food this is because it has outgrown its available supplies. If its needs conflict with those of other nations, war will result. When it is a question of starve or fight, people will always fight. No ruling of any League of Nations will prevail against real economic need" "In reply to a question from Mrs. Catt, Professor Warren Thompson said yesterday that it was inconceivable that a nation suffering from over-population would ever refrain from fighting to acquire more lands, if peaceable immigration into other lands were impossible. And peaceable emigration is rapidly becoming impossible. Countries do not wish to become dumping-grounds for the surplus population of other countries. More and more the United States is restricting immigration. Australia does not want the superfluous Japanese. Those people whom England has in excess are the urban workers--the very people the dominions do not want,--to compete with their own industrial workers. "As Professor Henry Pratt Fairchild says:"The old idea of movement as a means of escape from the evils of over-population must be definitely eliminated from national ideas-- the nations of the world must undertake to solve their own population problems by the application of rational measures of control rather than by aggression on the rights of other peoples.' "A moral duty rests with each nation so to limit its own numbers as to avoid conflict with its neighbors. "I sincerely hope that this Conference will recognize over-population as likely to be an important cause of war in the future, and will recommend, as Major-General John F. O'Ryan did, the problem of population control."

THE speaker of these brave words has won a distinct triumph for the cause of Birth Control in commanding the generous and respectful attention, which she received, and thus in sowing the seeds of the great problem in the minds of an intelligent and representative body of American women. To expect immediate acceptance and immediate action would be to invite rapid oblivion and forgetfulness. This seed will grow in the minds of the more thoughtful women, who will come to see their basic position in human society. They will awake to the deep truth that in their bodies rests the power to prevent warfare.

Let American women learn to open their minds to their great problems and their inexhaustible powers. Look deep and courageously for true causes, even though to look straight and unflinchingly may mean the readjustment and even the abandonment of old beliefs and prejudices inherited from traditional morality and religious convictions. They may only temporarily refuse to face the great world problem which presses in upon the consciousness of all the women of all nations. They cannot permanently refuse to consider it, for inevitably, slowly but certainly, step by step, the problem of Birth Control is invading the human mind of this twentieth century. Sooner of later the women of America must make their momentous decision--whether they shall carry on the torch of humanity, or lead the world in the bottomless pit of bad breeding.

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