Margaret Sanger, "Birth Control: A World-Wide Need," 03 Mar 1935.
Source: " Birth Control Plea is Made, Indianapolis Star, Mar. 4, 1935, p. 3."
No complete version of Sanger's talk at the Indianapolis Jewish Community Center was found. Draft notes for the speech can be found on Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Smith College Collections S71:799. For her comments to the press before this speech, see Indianapolis Statement on Relief Agencies, Mar. 2, 1935.
Humanity has a horror greater than any single major catastrophe in the day-after-day fear of unwanted pregnancy that exists in thousands of homes, Margaret Sanger told the open forum of the Jewish Community Center Association in the Kirshbaum Community Center last night.
Speaking before one of the largest audiences in the history of the forum, Mrs. Sanger pleaded for amendments to existing Federal laws that would permit dissemination of birth control information and allow physicians, hospitals, and clinics not only to prescribe for women but to use the mails to give information.
A bill to this end prepared by the National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control, with which Mrs. Sanger now is connected, is before the judiciary committee in the House and the Senate. Senator Fredrick Van Nuys voted against the amendment in the Senate judiciary committee, Mrs. Sanger reported.
“If a woman were to write me and ask for information about improving her cows or her chickens could forward the request to the Department of Agriculture and she would be showered with literature and suggestions,” Mrs. Sanger said. “But if I were to answer question about matters vitally affecting the well-being of her children and of herself, Federal law would make me liable for a fine of $5,000 and five years’ imprisonment.”
Mrs Sanger asserted that the medical profession should take the responsibility of prescribing birth control methods. Successful prevention of conception is as much an individual matter as the fitting of a pair of spectacles, she said. She criticized the Federal administration’s handling of the relief problem on the ground that the problem was being met superficially.
“We’ll have to go back to the principle of raising the quality of life before we can hope for national security,” she said. “At present, 43 percent of the increase in population comes from families on relief. If, when we began our fight for birth control twenty years ago, we had received the support of labor organizations and those social and religious institutions organized to relieve misery, the dilemma of the mounting burdens on the shoulders of unemployed fathers would not face us today. We must face the fact that not for years in this country will everyone who is able to have the opportunity to sustain himself.”
Mrs. Sanger said she coined the term “birth control” in 1914. She listed the following seven reasons for birth control derived from her investigations since that time: (1) In cases where either parent has a transmissible disease; (2) where the wife has an illness liable to serious aggravation by pregnancy, as in tuberculosis, where four out of ever seven woman victims die from their pregnancy rather than from the disease; (3) in families where children already born have been subnormal; (4) for the spacing of children, at least three years apart being recommended; (5) for adolescent married couples, who should not become parents until they have attained maturity; (6) wherever the father is unable to earn enough to support a family; and (7) as a means to the fulfillment of companionship in marriage.
Elaborating on the seventh point, Mrs. Sanger said that pregnancies that begin with the honeymoon are unfair both to the wife and the husband.
“The wife should not become pregnant until she has been married two years,” Mrs. Sanger said. “In that two years there is time for physical, spiritual and financial adjustment between the couple. There is an opportunity for the husband to know his wife as a woman, not as a potential mother. Too many have never been women at all. They have been girls until they were married and became mothers suddenly thereafter, without the opportunity to be and to express themselves.”
Responding to questions following the address Mrs. Sanger placed but little reliance in the recently publicized “rhythm method” of birth control and said that the method had not had the benefit of extensive research. She praised England as the first nation to lay a foundation for true birth control and said the British are more advanced than Soviet Russia. Russia, however, has lagged behind in birth control work largely because of lack of supplies, she pointed out. She denied that low-birth-rate nations would fall under the military attack of high-birth-rate countries, asserting that the low-rate nations would muster better fighting men.
About eleven hundred persons attended. Dr. Louis H. Segar presided.
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project