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Margaret Sanger, "Birth Control, 1958," 1959.

Source: " Britannica Book of the Year (1959), p. 108."

For other articles in the Britannica Book of the Year series, see Birth Control, 1941 ; Birth Control, 1942 ; Birth Control, 1943 ; Birth Control, 1944 ; Birth Control, 1945 ; Birth Control, 1946 ; Birth Control, 1947 ; Birth Control, 1948 ; Birth Control, 1949 ; Birth Control, 1950 ; Birth Control, 1951 ; Birth Control, 1952 ; Birth Control, 1953 ; Birth Control, 1954 ; Birth Control, 1955 ; Birth Control, 1956 ; and Birth Control, 1957 .

Birth Control.

Two events–one in the United States and one in England–highlighted the year 1958 for the family planning movement. In New York city, a longstanding prohibition on birth control services in municipal hospitals was reversed. And in England, the Lambeth conference of the bishops of the Anglican (Protestant Episcopal) Communion adopted a new statement vigorously endorsing family planning.

In July the hospital commissioner of New York city ordered a doctor at a city hospital not to prescribe a contraceptive for a Protestant patient whose life, the doctor believed, would be endangered by another pregnancy. This action drew widespread protests from the city’s Protestant and Jewish groups, as well as many civic and medical organizations; it was supported by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese. After two months in which the issue was discussed prominently in the press, the Board of Hospitals, by an 8-2 vote, reversed the ban. The board, noting that the medical profession recognizes contraception as the proper therapeutic procedure when pregnancy is contraindicated, authorized municipal hospital staffs to provide this service in such situations. It also exempted from participation personnel who had religious objections to birth control. The new policy was subsequently extended to cover the medical services of the city’s welfare department.

At the Lambeth conference the Episcopal bishops, representing 46 countries, characterized birth control as “a right and important factor in Christian family life.” Responsibility “for deciding upon the number and frequency of children has been laid by God upon the consciences of parents everywhere,” the bishops stated. “The procreation of children is not the sole purpose of Christian marriage. Implicit within the bond between husband and wife is the relationship of love with its sacramental expression in physical union.”

Further progress was made in the world-wide effort to discover simpler, more effective means of controlling fertility. Clinical tests continued in Puerto Rico, the U.S. and elsewhere of a new oral contraceptive pill–a steroid device–while basic research was initiated into other aspects of the reproductive system.

Interest in family planning in the Soviet Union was indicated by an official invitation to Abraham Stone, vice-president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, to address the 10th National Conference of Gynecologists and Obstetricians in Moscow. Stone reported that physicians from all parts of the Soviet Union were eager to obtain specific information on modern birth control techniques, products and research activities in western countries.

In its annual report, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America noted that during 1957 more than 250,000 visits were made to centres operated by the federation’s 103 state and local affiliates by women seeking contraceptive service, infertility treatment and marriage education. At the federation’s annual meeting in November, the Albert and Mary Lasker Award in Planned Parenthood was given to Harrison Brown of the California Institute of Technology for his pioneering work on the relationship between population growth and future needs for resources . . . his educational activity among scientists and laymen on the need for world-wide family planning to achieve and maintain global resource population balance. The International Planned Parenthood federation held a western hemisphere regional conference in Jamaica, B.W.I., in [one word faulty reproduction] and heard a forthright statement of the need for birth control from Sir Grantley Adams, who had just been elected premier of the newly formed West Indian federation. Similar emphasis on the need for birth control was contained in many addresses at the Afro-Asian Conference of Women in Colombo in February [one word faulty reproduction] attended by 119 delegates from 18 countries.

The Roman Catholic hierarchy is opposed to mechanical and chemical methods of contraception. Under ecclesiastical approbation it permits, however, distribution of informational literature about the so-called “safe” period.


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