Margaret Sanger, "The Next Step," 20 Feb 1930.
Source: "Margaret Sanger Papers, Sophia Smith Collection Margaret Sanger Papers Microfilm, Smith College Collections S71:178."
Sanger gave this speech at the opening dinner of the Western State Conference on Birth Control and Population held at the Baltimore Hotel in Los Angeles. For notes on her other speech at this conference, see Legal Obstacles to Racial Progress, Feb. 23, 1930.
The first step towards Birth Control legislation in the United States was taken in 1914 when Section 211 of the Penal Code was challenged by me. In this section of the Federal law contraceptive and instruction is classed with abortions, lewdness, [pornography?] and obscenity. I felt this classification to be not only dangerous to the well being of the race, but an insult to the intelligent womanhood of the present generation, whose ideals and standards of family life were held in high esteem because of the practice of birth control.
After two years of campaigning to arouse the consciousness of the public the case was dismissed in 1916 without coming to trial. At this time the subject was little known and most of us believed it to be a matter of free speech. After studying in Holland, England, France and Spain I was convinced that the basis of principle of contraception was more technical than that implied in a free speech campaign. I saw in the clinics of Holland the important of the knowledge of physiology and anatomy on the part of the instructor if good results were to be obtained. Consequently we must depend upon the medical profession to instruct and inform the women who were to be benefited by the laws we desired to amend.
When the Federal indictments against me were dismissed I turned my attention to the State laws and found various restrictions in over twenty three of the 48 states. In 25 states there was no restriction whatever, while in nine states there are complete restrictions as to writing or publishing notices or advertisements as to the means to prevent conception. There are not more than ten states in the Union in which he physician is exempt from the laws.
The Federal law Section 211 makes it a crime to send any paper, book, letter, written or printed through the United States Mails. It also includes articles and drugs from being transported through the U.S. Mails or common carriers.
The Federal law not only prohibits books or pamphlets containing information to prevent conception, but it makes it a crime, punishable by five years or $5,000 fine to tell anyone where, or by whom such information may be given. In other words the Federal law makes it a crime for me to write to anyone in California and give the address of any doctor or clinic of which there are over seven already, legally operating under the laws of the State of California!! (Preposterous truly.) The same law prohibits the sending of our clinical reports to doctors or to exchange records, reports, data or scientific facts regarding the studies already made on the technique and methods of contraception. It prohibits the entrance from Europe of articles, or books or appliances most necessary to advance the scientific work of our clinics.
The Federal laws Section 211, 245, 305 must be amended to allow medical and scientific books, records and articles to be sent through the mails to and from the physicians and include necessary provisions for the patients as well as that of druggist importers and manufacturer.
The State laws are being attended to by the American Birth Control League but the amendment to the Federal law must be secured by a general protest of enlightened and intelligent citizens throughout the country. I have the honor to be Chairman of the National Birth Control Federal Committee and I invite you to participate in this National campaign and to help emancipate the mothers of America from the enslavement of overburdened, undesired and enforced maternity.
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project