Margaret Sanger, "The Need of Birth Control," 17 Mar 1930.
Source: " Says Birth Control is Quickest Means of Effecting Peace on Earth, Madison Capital Times, Mar. 18, 1930, pp. 1 and 6."
Sanger's speech was not found.
Birth Control must be the basis for any new social order: it is the most immediate step to be taken if we will bring peace on earth; and it must take parenthood out of the realm of chance.
A small auburn-haired woman, introduced by Professor E. A. Ross in a crowded Music hall Monday night as one contemporary whose name would be familiar to the historian 500 years hence, Mrs. Margaret Sanger, summed up her arguments on “The Need of Birth Control” with that sweeping assertion.
She drew a picture, familiar to her through 16 years of struggle and argument of a minority of 20 millions of intelligent persons in the United States carrying the burden of 45,000,000 subnormal and mediocre persons; the intelligent limiting their families; the subnormal, multiplying unchecked.
“The United States government recognizes its population problem,” she declared, “Its immigration laws exclude the unfit, the illiterate, the disease, the mentally deficient, those likely to become a charge on the community, and others.
“But once in the country they are practically forced by law to multiply unchecked,” she declared.
“It is time for the government to take up its population policy so far as controlling its future is concerned. But all we have are laws inspired by Anthony Comstock 56 years ago.”
She declared that a minority in the United States was limiting its families, that this minority held the best positions, gave its children the best training, and paid the $9,000,000,000 which last year was spent in taxes for charitable institutions and institutions for the car of the others.
Questioned after the conclusion of her lecture for almost an hour by interested students, faculty members, townspeople, and even one physician, there was no trace of hostility in the crowd.
One voice which questioned, “What can you say to someone who says that birth control is a sin?” was answered with, “You can ask right back, which is the greater sin, birth control of bearing a child for someone else to take care of.”
The effect that knowledge of contraceptive methods might have on encouraging promiscuity outside of marriage, Mrs. Sanger declared to be nil and dependent upon the character of the persons involved, in answer to another question. Asked her opinion of compassionate marriage, she declared that the regular institution of marriage has never really been given a chance.
The danger of applying to any physician for birth control information, because of the possibility of falling in the hands of a quack was little, she declared, because of the possible harm in receiving contraceptive information from a quack was less than that of too frequent pregnancy.
who="MCT">Declaring that men don’t know women she stated in her main address: “Men have never known women. They have known them as girls and then as mothers. They have made a good deal of motherhood, but nothing of womanhood. A woman can flower and develop after marriage, but only if the fear of pregnancy is removed. A husband has no opportunity to know the bride who returns from the honeymoon pregnant and in an abnormal condition.
“I believe young people should begin to make something more of marriage than the past generation has. They should have at least two years free from the responsibility of parenthood, to adjust themselves, one to the other. The tie between them should be strengthened, it will give our young people that chance to be free from that disturbing influence that pregnancy has on a woman.”
“It has been a struggle for a man to keep his earning capacity ahead of his reproductive capacity,” she said.
She pointed out that population can be controlled through increasing the death rate or decreasing the birth rate.
“We will not let famine and pestilence control population,” she said, “So we must control our birth rate.”
The 83 millions of mediocre and subnormal, she declared, resulted in slums, child labor, ignorance, and misery.
The small intelligent group has the small families, but it brings in the largest number of children up to maturity, from that group the best positions are filled, according to Mrs. Sanger.
“Some point to that group as being selected to increase its birth rate,” she said. “But I believe they can not multiply faster until we take the other crowd off their backs.”
She declared that the United States had the largest maternity death rate in the civilized world with 20,000 mothers dying each year; and she stated that 200,000 infants died before they reach one year of age.
She found three conditions controlling the infant death rate: 1. The infant rate goes up as the father’s wage goes down. 2. As children are spaced in the families, their chances in life are increased-- three years should separate each child. 3. Their place in the family-- the second child has a greater chance to live than the fifth; the fifth than the eighth; and 60 percent of the twelfth children are doomed to die before they take their first breath.
“If we are going to make the world safe for mothers,” she said, “We can not stop at milk stations and humanitarian institutions. We must instruct parents.
“Anyone can become a parent today,” she claimed. “The insane, the diseased. Laws today permit one to give out birth control information, but they forbid sending information through the mail telling one where to get it.
“We have had 13,000 women visit our birth control clinic in New York during the past four years. Of that number, 33 percent were Protestant; 32 percent, Catholic; and 31 percent, Jewish.” “In spite of the law of the church, the Catholic women come to us.”
She outlined three means of control: 1. Continence. “We have no quarrel with this method,” she said. “However our neurologists and psychologist may quarrel with it.” 2. Sterilization. It has already become a part of the work of the state to prevent defectives from having progeny, she said. 3. Contraceptives.
According to Mrs. Sanger the last method is the only one which arouses any opposition. She said persons with transmissible diseases should not be parents, and should be sterilized mothers with communicable diseases should be thoroughly cured before attempting to bear children; and normal parents who have already had several subnormal children should have no more children.
Normal parents should allow a three year interval between children, one year for the mother to care for the infant; one year for her to enjoy life; and one year to prepare for the coming of the next child.
Adolescents may marry, according to Mrs. Sanger, but they should not have children until the girl reaches 22 and the man 25.
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project