Margaret Sanger, "The Function of Sterilization," 5 Aug 1926.

Source: " Birth Control Review Oct. 1926, p. 299 Margaret Sanger Papers Microfilm, Collected Documents Series C16:282."

No complete version of Sanger's address survives; the following is a shortened version published in the Birth Control Review. For a longer version drawn from multiple newspapers, see Vol. 1 of Selected Papers of Margaret Sanger, "Excerpt from Racial Betterment," Aug. 5, 1926, pp. 445-449.

The Function of Sterilization

Part of an address delivered by Margaret Sanger before the Institute of Euthenics at Vassar College

August 5th

The Question of race betterment is one of immediate concern, and I am glad to say that the United States Government has already taken certain steps to control the equality of our population through the drastic immigration laws.

There is a quota restriction by which only so many people from each country are allowed to enter our shores each month. It is the latest method adopted by our government to solve the population problem. Most people are convinced that this policy is right, and agree that we should slow down on the number as well as the kind of immigrants coming here.

But while we close our gates to the co-called “undesirables” from other countries, we make no attempt to discourage or cut down the rapid multiplication of the unfit and undesirable at home.

In fact through our archaic and inhuman laws against Birth Control information the breeding of defectives and insane becomes a necessity.

These types are being multiplied with break-neck rapidity and increasing far out of proportion to the normal and intelligent classes. In 1923 over nine billions of dollars were spent on state and federal charities for the care and maintenance and perpetuation of these undesirables. Year by year their numbers are mounting. Year by year their cost is increasing. Huge sums -- yes, vast fortunes -- are expended on these, while the normal parents and their children are compelled to shift for themselves and compete with each other.

The American public is taxed, heavily taxed, to maintain an increasing race of morons, which threatens the very foundations of our civilization.

Over one-quarter of the total income of the state of New York is spent on the maintenance of asylums, prisons, and other institutions for the care of the defective and the diseased. It must not be assumed that all the undesirable breeders are segregated in institutions. There is only a very small proportion of the feebleminded given over to institutions, the vast majority are living their lives among us, propagating their kind and providing abundant opportunity for the continuation of charities and various pauperizing institutions for generations to come.

When we view the political situation and realize that a moron’s vote is as good as an intelligent, educated, thinking citizen, we may well pause and ask ourselves: “Is America really safe for democracy?”

In England a few weeks ago the House of Lords passed a resolution sanctioning the giving of contraceptive instruction in all the maternity centers supported by the government.

It now remains for the United States government to set a sensible example to the world by offering a bonus or a yearly pension to all obviously unfit parents who allow themselves to be sterilized by harmless and scientific means. In this way the moron and the diseased would have no posterity to inherit their unhappy condition. The number of the feebleminded would decrease and a heavy burden would be lifted from the shoulders of the fit.

Such a bonus would be a wise and profitable investment for the nation. It would be the salvation of American civilization. It would enable thousands of parents to get a firm footing on the path of life and enable them to give some care to those children they have already borne.

It would mean facing our debts today, here and now, instead of passing them on and piling them up for future generations to pay.

Our statistics tell us that the birth rate of the college men and women is lower than it should be. This applies to all the professional classes, doctors, clergymen, lawyers and skilled workers. There are some who deplore this condition and would remedy it by abusive epithets hurled at this conscientious group of decent and responsible citizens, who would rather have only the umber of children they can decently rear, than to enter a cradle competition with the less responsible.

There is only one reply to a request for a higher birth rate among the intelligent, and that is to ask the government to first take off the burdens of the insane and feebleminded from your backs. Sterilization for these is your remedy.

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Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project