Margaret Sanger, "Birth Control the Key to International Peace and Security ," February 1921.

Source: " Birth Control Review, Feb. 1921, pp. 3-4."

Unsigned editorial likely written by Margaret Sanger.

Editorial Comment

Birth Control the Key to International Peace and Security

Most intelligent people who have given the population problem any thought at all now acknowledge the world’s crying need for Birth Control. The few who still remain unconvinced could not remain so if they visited the European countries which are suffering most acutely from the consequences of the war. Had the war succeeded in jolting Europe out of its old ways of thinking and feeling, had it smashed up its old romantic and sentimental ideals, had it awakened men and women to the values of human life and human standards, it might after all have justified itself. If it had taught people the insanity of that hideous waste of human life, the danger of petty chauvinistic quarrels, and awakened them to the absolute need of international cooperation, it would not have been in vain. Instead, it seems to me after my months in Central Europe and Great Britain, the old reactionary and sinister forces are the first in the field to throw dust in the eyes of the awakened and disillusioned victims of the great disaster. In the face of wholesale starvation and disease, the militarists and the imperialists are still crying aloud for more babies. This despite the cruel fact that the children who have already been brought into the world by starving parents, are too weak, too undernourished to stand, even to hold up their heads. These are to become the torch bearers of the human race! The great duty of those of us who are convinced of the necessity of the intelligence, and therefore of the high morality of Birth Control, is to awaken and mobilize the intelligence of the whole world about this problem.

We have passed the initial stage of controversy, of attack and discussion, of breaking the taboo of silence. The war which swept aside the old pruriencies concerning sex, has emphasized and accentuated the problem of population--showing it for those who have unprejudiced eyes to see--in the problems thrust every day before our eyes by the newspapers, pleas to save the starving children of Central Europe, appeals to aid the thirty million starving Chinese, questions of immigration and exclusion, the thousand “neediest cases,” reports on the increase of heritable disease and the congenitally feeble minded, plagues and pestilences bred and propagated in this overcrowded world, the effort of the Roman Catholic Church to stop, upon the basis of its traditional dogma, the rising and inevitable practice of Birth Control, the organization of huge international charities and philanthropies, through which the people of the less crowded and more prosperous nations are encouraged to pay for and palliate the inevitable disasters that follow blind and reckless breeding. More and more the whole world is looking to the people of America for financial support, for food, for the expression of our traditional generosity.

In facing all these complex problems, let us attempt first and always to seek the intelligent solution. Let us be generous, certainly! Let us minister to the needs of the afflicted and the disinherited, but in so doing, there is no need of wallowing in pathos and sentimentality. Let us remember that generosity does not preclude intelligence. We must not merely give, we must also guide.

To be creative, to be constructive, international charity faces the important duty, not primarily of relieving the sufferings of the afflicted, the starving and the diseased, but of preventing permanently the recurrence of conditions which have brought about social or economic disaster. Charity or philanthropy which does not seek to uproot the radical causes of social disaster, misery and starvation is negative and not worthy of support.

Whether we like it or not, the consequences of the war has thrust internationalism upon us. Our “splendid isolation” is a myth. We have been shaken out of our slumber of complacency into an acute realization of a finely enmeshed tangle of interdependencies, inter-relationships, and tightly knotted antagonisms. Today we are confronted with an internationalism of petty hatreds, of disasters, of starvation, of industrial bankruptcy. Among nations as among smaller communities the irresponsible and the helpless become the burden of the self supporting and the self reliant, a fact sufficiently and emphatically thrust upon us every day of our lives.

How then is it possible to disentangle this disordered skein of international affairs? How, out of all the international chaos and disease produced by national hatred, is it possible to sow the fruitful seed of the internationalism of peace and security?

The internationalism of peace and security and progress, to be enduring, to be a vital growing and fruitful principle, to be effective, cannot be based on the conferences of politicians and self appointed “statesmen” who meet and discuss the limitation of armaments, who strive to gloss over deeply rooted antagonisms and disguised policies of imperialism. Nor can it be brought about by the establishment of a “world court” which refuses to recognize the most deeply rooted instincts and habits of the human race.

No, the new internationalism can only come as the out growth of a dynamic, living, functional practice, which penetrates into the very lives and habits of the human race, and which gradually but progressively lessens and obliterates the cause of wars and social catastrophies. If seriously we aim for world peace, we must discourage over population and overcrowding, with its attendant train of disease, epidemic and plague. By diminishing overcrowding, much of the incentive for emigration will disappear, and with the lessening of emigration and immigration, we shall have taken an important step in stabilizing and increasing the power of organized labor.

The practice of Birth Control is this dynamic living principle which not only relieves the conditions of overcrowding for the individual, but also for the race. It is the crying need in over populated countries like Japan and China and elsewhere, as the statistics of infantile mortality, infanticide and abortion tragically indicate. Only the great reactionary forces of tradition and exploitation and ignorance oppose its practice.

Our own immediate duty then, is to mobilize the forces of intelligence and true statesmanship in all countries, to establish “spheres of influence,” to awaken the consciousness and the conscience of all serious minded people to this great world problem, and to unite with the rapidly growing movements in other lands.

Our outlook is more promising than it has ever been. The causes of the present international chaos are becoming more and more evident, and to ever increasing numbers of people. Once we begin to grasp the factors of our great problem of international peace and security, we may assure ourselves that we shall be brave enough and courageous enough not to rest until we have solved it.

Subject Terms:

Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project