Margaret Sanger, "Birth Control--The Cure for War," Nov 1918.

Source: " Birth Control Review, Nov. 1918, p. 12."

Much of this article is made of quotes from a Malthusian League report.


Birth Control--The Cure For War

THE DEEPER THAT thinking minds look into the causes of the Great War, the more evident it is becoming that the chief cause of the cataclysmic struggle is high birth rates, particularly the high birth rate of Germany. High birth rates mean expansion of national boundaries, conquests, annexations, exploitation, and all the manifold oppressions of a militaristic and imperialistic policy.

The soundness of the general policy laid down by Dr. C. Killick Millard, the eminent British scientist and health official, whose notable address was quoted in the last issue of THE BIRTH CONTROL REVIEW, is strikingly exemplified in detail by conditions cited in the Fortieth Annual Report of the (British) Malthusian League just issued. Dr. Millard laid down the principle that only worldwide birth control can preclude the possibility of another such race-wrecking conflict as we are now undergoing. The report brings to light certain facts which leaves no doubt as to the necessity of limiting population by those normal methods for which advocates of Birth Control contend.

That these facts are beginning to take hold upon the public understanding is startlingly evidenced by the doubling of the demand for the literature of the Malthusian League during the twelve months covered by the report. The horrors of war are bringing home to the English people the necessity of reducing the birth rate.

"THE WAR HAS certainly stimulated interest in the population question and birth control" says the report. "First the public was impressed by the statements of the Kasier, Von Bernhardi, Von Bulow and others as to Germany's necessity for conquests in order to provide for its high birth rate, and next by the food difficulties and by the questionableness altogether, of bringing more children into the world at such a time. So the demands for our literature and for our free Practical leaflet began to increase rapidly. People were interested to learn how, since 1901, Germany's high birth rate had been falling with amazing speed, and how we had hoped that peace between us might continue a few years longer and become permanent.

"In 1908 its birth rate had fallen below thirty per thousand per annum, and we hoped that Germany would soon enter into a peaceful alliance with France, Britain and America. Now we know that the preparations for war which Germany had made in its high birth rate years, had gone too far for this. But the fall of its birth rate since 1914 has been tremendous, and has aroused great indignation and alarm among its militarists.

"The January issue of Maternity and Child Welfare, in an editorial article in favor of birth control, quote as follows from Dr. Marcuse who had discussed the subject with hundreds of sick German soldiers: The large proportion of them do not wish to ever have children again. They said in effect that factory-food and cannon-food, all that kind of thing, has got to go, and only after our women have proclaimed a general birth strike will things be better.

"It seems certain that Germany, though its birth-rate like ours will probably rise for a year or two after the war, will soon become a very low birth rate country. Unfortunately, Russia and the Balkan States will continue for some years to have high birth rates causing a high pressure of population which will still endanger the peace of Europe."

Still other "war problems" bring home the necessity of birth control. "Many doctors and social workers" says the report just quoted from, "expect a serious increase in prostitution and venereal disease after the war.

"Our remedy for prostitution is to encourage early marriage by spreading the knowledge that couples can avoid having any more children than they are able to do justice to.

"There may be a period of terrible poverty and suffering after the war, and the fewer children born for a year or so, the shorter that period will be. The population of America, Canada, Australiaand New Zealand continues, and will continue, to increase very rapidly, so Britain and France need not be in any hurry to raise their birth rates above the present level. In any case, the only way we can do something towards compensating for our losses in the war is to bring about a better distribution of children by upholding the Malthusian principle that people should not have more children than they can provide for."

THERE YET REMAINS the threat of an increase in the birth rate after the war and the intensification of the evils of poverty. Says the report:

"In the year or so after the war the birth rate will probably rise, alas, to about its 1914 figure of 23.6 per thousand. As there was still a large amount of poverty with this birth rate before the war, it would seem certain that there will be a greater amount with such a birth rate after the war.

"Moreover, if there is such emigration of young workers to the Colonies it will increase the amount of poverty. So the birth rate will soon begin to fall again, and it will go on falling until poverty (i.e., insufficiency of the necessaries for good health) has disappeared. Those who look upon the falling birth rate as an evil and oppose it, only succeed in retarding the movement slightly; but hinder its spreading where it is most needed, namely, amongst the poor and the unfit.

"We consider the falling birth rate to be a good thing, so to us the only question is--should the inevitable further decline of the birth rate be among the richer or among the poorer classes? We say that it should be among the poor and that advice on contraception, which they are generally so eager to get, should be freely given them. Birth control clinics, like those in Holland, should be established in every town, and doctors and nurses should also be called upon to give the information when needed. The Dutch Neo-Malthusian League, which is officially recognized as a Society of Public Utility, enables poor people to get the information easily, and the improvement in the condition and physique of the nation has been extraordinary."


Subject Terms:

Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project


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