Margaret Sanger, "This is Why I Fight for Birth Control," 15 Aug 1939.

Source: " Look Magazine, Aug. 15, 1939, pp. 10-13 Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Smith College Collections S72:97."

This article was comprised of still photos from the film "Why Let Them Die."


This is Why I Fight for Birth Control

Editor’s Note: These pictures are from “Why Let Them Die,” a documentary film treating the moral, social and economic aspects of birth control. It is being released for private showings by Margaret Sanger and her colleagues of the Birth Control Federation of America. The captions have been written for Look by Mrs. Sanger.

1. Martha Hayeswas 18 when she and Tomwere married. For Martha, marriage was a blessed means of escape; escape from a home so crowded with children that there was scarcely room to lie down at night, escape from an embittered father and from the everlasting drudgery that had made her mother’s life a curse.

2. But here is the record of Martha’s married life. Eleven children in 14 years. One of them a stillbirth, one a miscarriage. Finally, pregnant and deserted, she took the desperate step which cost her life. The story of suffering and privation which lies behind Martha’s case history card (above) is not an unusual one. her tragedy is all the worse because birth control could have prevented it.

3. At first life went smoothly. But when babies started coming with scarcely seven months between birth and pregnancy, Martha and Tom found themselves hating the home and family they had created. Tom became a hard-driven, hopeless father.

4. And Martha was a housebound, work-worn mother, entangled in the web which she had married to escape. Four of her babies died in infancy. There was never enough food for those that lived. Tom’s earnings, year after year, averaged about $400.

5. Tom grew to dread coming home to his squalid two-room shack, to the wistful hungry faces of his children. One day syphilis appeared in Martha’s case history card, and finally, in drunken hopelessness, Tom Hayes abandoned his family.

6. Tom and Martha had not wanted so many children. They had known that they could not feed nor clothe them, that their babies would grow up-if they grew up at all- weak in mind and body. But Martha and Tom were ignorant of birth control methods, as Martha’s mother had been. Not long after Tom deserted her, Martha discovered that another baby was on its way.

7. Martha Hayes’ last desperate step was one taken by millions of American women every year. From a neighbor trying to be helpful, she learned the name of a so-called “doctor” who could “help her.” She took what money she had--the fee is usually whatever the patient can scrape together--and paid it in advance. She didn’t even know the “doctor’s” name. They took her behind a hanging sheet.

8. Martha Hayes never recovered from the illegal operation. She died at the hands of the abortionist--as some 8,000 American women die each year-simply because she was ignorant of how to plan her family. I have known thousands of women like Martha, known their needless suffering and the heartaches of their husbands. That is why I fight for birth control.

I Fight for Birth Control not only for the sake of Tom and Martha, but for the sake of the community. I would prevent subnormal parents from having children like these, and other parents from having children whose birth may cost a mother’s life. Proportionately more mothers die in America in childbirth than in 15 other countries.

Birth Control Makes for Happy Children and happy families by preventing the conception of unwanted babies. It also saves infant lives. When babies are born one year apart, 147 out of every 1,000 infants die. When births are two years apart, 100 out of every thousand die. When there is three years between births, only 87 die.

Since the Beginning of civilization, man has tried to devise ways to keep teeming population within bounds. Where man has failed, nature has stepped in with controls as pitiless as they are inflexible. War, pestilence, famine, these are nature’s way. Even today in the Far East these forces are inexorably at work.

These Two Pictures Illustrate the Difference between planned and unplanned parenthood. Below is a happy, well planned family, with the children properly spaced. Above is a family which knows nothing about birth control and will continue to know nothing about it until it is incorporated in our public health services and made available to the lowest income groups. How urgently this is needed today is shown by the fact that families on relief are now producing 60 per cent of our next generation. For every two babies born to parents not on relief, relief families are having three.


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Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project


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