Margaret Sanger, "The Next Step," Oct 1929.

Source: " Birth Control Review, Oct. 1929, pp. 278-279."


The Next Step

The Penal Laws of the United States, which obstruct and prohibit Birth Control, must be amended by the united effort of intelligent Americans.

“The greatest experiment in race building the world has ever seen”-–this is the great human drama now unfolding in these United States, according to Sir Arthur Keith, England’s leading anthropologist. Are we going to play a leading role in this great racial drama? Are we going to push through to victory? Or are we going to sit back content to remain passive spectators of a play which threatens to turn into a national tragedy? There can be one answer only: we must act, courageously, promptly and in unison. If we refuse, we brand ourselves as lacking not only intelligence, but also courage.

What is the next imperative step confronting us? I can answer this question in two words: co-ordination and co-operation. Let me explain why.

Birth Control does not mean mere contraception. It has two aspects: positive and negative. It aims to place in the hands of every potential mother in America the power to say yes or no-–to decide for herself if and when and how, she shall fulfill the function of motherhood. Birth Control will enable a woman to act as a free, self-directed, autonomous personality. It will liberate motherhood. For, remember, without free mothers we can never produce free and strong children.

Co-ordination and Co-operation Needed

But this Magna Carta for womankind cannot become operative without co-ordination and co-operation. Last May we scored a great victory in New York City in vindicating the right of the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau to function without the interference of obstructionists. That right is possible in other states – in California, for instance. But due to obsolete statuses written into our Federal Penal Code by prudent fanatics, unified action on the part of all intelligent and farseeing groups in the United States has been impossible. Therefore I say that the first step toward the co-ordination and co-operation of our forces, acting as a nation-wide unit can be effected by the removal of the obstacles enacted, under the sinister influence of the late Anthony Comstock, into the Federal Penal Code.

The Federal law not only excludes books or pamphlets containing contraceptive information, but it makes it a crime punishable by five years imprisonment 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 legally operating under the law of the State of California. Preposterous truly.... The same law prohibits the sending of clinical reports to doctors or the interchange of records, data or scientific facts regarding the studies made in various localities 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 the clinics, and of contraceptive research in the United States.

The Federal laws (Sections 334, 396, 511, 512) must be amended, to allow medical and scientific books, records and articles to be sent through the mails to and from the physicians, and to include the necessary provisions for the patients, as well as for druggists, importers and manufacturers.

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 the Chairman of the Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control (46 West 15th Street, New York City) and we invite readers of the Review to participate in this national campaign.

Here I have only briefly indicated the network of obstructions and obstacles which have been created by these Federal statutes. They stand as a veritable barbed wire entanglement which we must clear before the American nation can carry to successful fulfillment the greatest experiment in race building this world has ever witnessed.

To join in this national campaign is to align oneself with the forces of intelligence. This is the most profoundly patriotic act now possible for American citizens. It means to play an active part in a great human drama. Here is an opportunity to be embraced joyfully, reverentially, religiously. To present a united front – valiant, indefatigable and undefeatable, against the powers of prejudice, prurience and stupidity – to gain strength by our very solidity, and to march joyfully into the future! There is an increased sense of living, more thrills in fighting, than the passive critic ever feels. Support the Federal Committee and discover this for yourself!


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Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project


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