Margaret Sanger, "Birth Control, 1938," 14 Nov 1938.

Source: " Margaret Sanger Papers, Sophia Smith Collection Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Smith College Collections S71:1044."

No published version of this article was found. It may have been written for the Britannic Book of the Year series, for an example, see Birth Control, 1937, 1938.

During 1938 there has been a consistent trend in national population policies abroad to decry the decreasing birth-rate and to demand larger populations to supply manpower for possible future wars. This has led to attempts at stringent repression of birth control education and service in the totalitarian states of Germany and Italy , coupled with marriage grants, lower taxation for fathers of large families, and other forms of stimulation towards increased reproduction. Russia also is pressing for a higher birth-rate, curtailing abortions, but it does not ban birth control or prohibit the sale of materials. The Scandinavian countries are studying their population problems, sanely and scientifically, without agitation against birth control. In England , also the Population Commission is attempting to discover the social and economic causes for the lowered birth rate there but in the Parliamentary Debates on the subject, it was acknowledged that birth control was essential as a public health measure and had come to stay. One bill was introduced into Parliament to limit the sale of materials but was defeated. In the United States , the committee on Population Problems of the National Resources Committee referring to a possible decline in population after 1938, stated: “A halt in population increase ... may on the whole, be beneficial rather than injurious to the life of the Nation. It assures a continuance of a favorable ratio of population to natural resources in the United States. this supplies the material basis for a higher level of living.”

India held its Second Conference on Population and Family Hygiene, which included birth control and sterilization, in Bombay in April, 1938. The All-India Women's Conference held in Nagpur in late December, 1937 passed a resolution urging the establishment of birth control clinics under public health direction.

Puerto Rico . The Attorney General of the United States was asked to pass on the legality of the laws relative to birth control passed by the Island’s Legislature in 1937, and ruled that they were in conflict with the Federal Penal Code applying to territorial possessions. No action on the part of the Federal District Attorney has as yet been taken, however, and there has been no interruption in the service of both governmental and private birth control clinics.

United States. The extension in birth control clinical service has been marked. In October, 1938 there were 412 clinics functioning in the U.S., a large number of them supported by public funds and housed in public health institutions , hospitals and municipal buildings.

The trend in legislation has been toward regulation of the sale of contraceptives an venereal disease prophylactics by confining their distribution to physicians and to licensed druggists.

The American Medical Association at its Annual Meeting in 1938 adopted a report which stated that the Association “desired to reiterate the stand taken” (on contraception) “by this house in 1937, that the problem is essentially a medical one.” the Section on Nervous and Mental Diseases passed resolutions asking for amendment of all existing legislation which hampers physicians, where contraceptive advice for patients or distribution of medical literature on contraception are concerned, and the Section on Obstetrics and Gynecology passed a resolution asking for action on recommendations of the committee on Contraceptive Practices passed by the A.M.A. in 1937.

The Supreme Court of Massachusetts ruled that the State law provided no exception for physicians or those acting under their direction, in so far as prescribing contraceptives was concerned. this is the first time since passage of the so-called "Comstock laws” in 1873 that the highest court of any state has refused to recognize the right of the doctor to preserve the health or life of his patients. The U.S. Supreme Court in October, 1938 refused to review the case, indicating that relief lay in amendment of the State law. It is announced by the Massachusetts Birth Control League that a more clearly defined "test case” will soon be made.

In North Carolina, birth control service under direction of the State Health Department completed its first year and in a report delivered at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting in October 1938, it was stated that requests for this practical service from county health departments were greater than could be met. The example of North Carolina has encouraged other states to consider the adoption of similar programs.

Public opinion favorable to the incorporation of birth control in medical practice and public health programs continues to express itself through popular polls, magazine articles, editorials, resolutions of national groups.


In England, the Birth Control Investigation Committee incorporated with the National Birth Control Association has conducted research at Oxford University under De. John R. Baker, with the aim of developing a cheap, effective and harmless contraceptive which it is announced is now ready for distribution. Similar experiments in simplified contraceptive methods have been consistently carried on by the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau in New York City through its affiliates in America and elsewhere, and statistical studies reveal encouraging progress.

Research in many other aspects of contraception is being conducted in various universities of the United States. The time of evaluation at the University of Denver, and at Harvard, spermatoxins at the University of Pennsylvania. In addition, the National Committee on Maternal Health has extended its research grants, and has stimulated programs in a number of universities bearing on the biological and chemical aspects of contraception. The third year of the Journal of Contraception reveals an ever-widening interest on the part of the medical profession here and abroad in the biological and clinical aspects of human fertility and its control.

Subject Terms:

Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project