Margaret Sanger, "Principles of Birth Control," 20 June 1949.

Source: "Margaret Sanger Papers, Sophia Smith Collection Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Smith College Collections S72:582."

Published version not found. A note typed at the top reads: "Article for Japanese Magazine Mezane (Awakening)--June 1949".For another version, see Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Smith College Collections S72:578.The published version of this article was not found


by Margaret Sanger

Amid the difficulties of the post-war world, nothing is more encouraging for the future than the resurgence of Japan’s interest in birth control. Nothing gives more promise for peace and the well being of the people, not only in Japan but throughout Asia and therefore the whole world.

I speak of a resurgence rather than a beginning because interest in birth control and the benefits it could confer was keen twenty-seven years ago when I visited Japan. There was then a fine, vigorous movement which seemed to promise the educational and medical progress that would enable Japanese families to limit the number of their children to those they could rear in health and happiness. Unfortunately, militarism crushed the hopes that were raised at that time, and we have harvested the bitter fruits which some of us predicted if the plain lessons of reckless population growth were not learned.

Despite the tremendous upheavals of the last twenty-seven years, certain fundamentals are unaltered. I would like to quote from a speech which I made in Tokyo in 1922 because the message I sought to give them is just as valid today.

“. . . war is no longer the way to settle international disputes. Nevertheless we cannot hope for world peace until all nations recognize that there are fundamental dynamic forces at work which must be controlled. These forces are hunger and propagation, and we cannot solve one without including the other. Until these forces are recognized and acted upon wisely, the idea of international peace will remain a dream and a myth.

“Japan has. . . a right to have her problems solved in a rational, humanitarian way, but until our diplomats and statesman recognize the causes of war and make a study of the population question in all its manifold departments, all our Leagues of Nations, international conferences, agreements and international treaties will become the proverbial ‘scraps of paper.’ Men and women of Japan, I appeal to you to look into this subject thoroughly. The women and mothers in your country are just as desirous of wiping out poverty, misery suffering and war as the women of the other nations of the world. I appeal to you to set your motherhood free! To make your women something more than breeding machines, such as the women of every nation have been during some period of that nation’s development. The time has come for international brotherhood and international emancipation, based upon free, conscious maternity.”

Obviously the principles have not changed. The need remains, too. But for the achievement of the goal, there must be work, and intelligence. A program which would bring the decision as to the number of their offspring under the control of parents themselves would have to include:

1. Education to enlighten the public through its teachers, writers, ministers, commentators.

2. Organization of groups of specially trained field workers to bring the importance of the subject to the people themselves.

3. Instruction of the people in the methods of birth control and their application, this instruction to be given by properly qualified medical or nursing personnel.

4. Establishment of birth control clinics [--] public health services and incorporation of this subject in general programs of health education through all appropriate governmental channels.

5. Sterilization of those hopelessly unfit for reproduction by reason of clearly provable dangers of transmissible mental or physical ailments which do not unfit them for marriage--make their children unhappy helpless charges upon themselves, their families and society.

6. Research to improve the efficacy of contraceptives, to find simpler, less expensive methods than those now known, to correlate data on the importance of birth control in combating infant and maternal mortality and illness, social failure and over-populations.

7. Legislation to put all these principles into effect. These principles have not changed through the years; the problems, however, have magnified. Since 1922, the population of the world has grown more than a quarter of a million, of which Japan has contributed about twenty-million. Technological advances in the production and distribution of food have by no means kept pace with the population increase. Yet all over the world people are coming more and more to realize that possibilities for a decent standard of living for all exist. If we could make the best use of the techniques we know and at the same time end the reckless breeding of children who can never hope to be as well cared for as most animals, the possibilities would be realized.

This strengthening aspiration of the masses of mankind is a hopeful sign. There are others. We have better educational and medical facilities than ever before. Through our papers, our cinema, the radio and all the network of communications and schooling, the truth can be brought to millions. We have improved our public health techniques. We are increasing our efforts to find improved contraceptives. We have amassed a tremendous body of information which proves to us that we are on the right track.

Against these grounds for optimism we must set off realistically the obstacles which remain. They are prodigious. Apathy and weariness are the most dangerous. The mothers of all lands remain, as they always have been, pathetically eager to learn means for controlling conception. Their leaders and teachers allow themselves to become preoccupied with lesser problems, which problems that are insoluble unless the bigger question of population control is mastered.

Then there are the forces of ignorance and fanaticism, often actively engaged in fighting to perpetuate the old lies that mankind must continue to multiply regardless of human welfare. Here the great danger comes from those whose egotism leads them to impose their own concepts of morality or even spirituality upon all their fellows. These fanatics arrogate to themselves all wisdom and all truth; they set up a doctrine of infallibility based on nothing more than their own assertions. Hardly anyone would seek to forbid them the right to practice what they wish and to seek converts to their views by argument and persuasion. But that is not enough for them, it is not enough because their cause is too weak to survive through its own validity. Therefore, they seek to force others to accept their dictates whether the others believe as they do or not.

I am sure that in Japan, as in the rest of the world, these minions of intolerance will be defeated. I am confident that in the matter of conception control we will soon see Japan asserting a leadership which will serve all the nations of the Orient, and the Japanese first of all, in achieving the health and welfare of the people, a balance between food and natural resources and population, and the ultimate objective of permanent peace on earth.

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