Margaret Sanger, "Birth Control, 1940," 1941.

Source: " Britannica Book of the Year, 1940, pp. 94-95."

For draft versions see Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Smith College Collections S72:227 and 238 and Library of Congress Microfilm 129:77.For other articles in the Britannica Book of the Year series, see Birth Control, 1944 ; Birth Control, 1946 ; Birth Control, 1947 ; Birth Control, 1949 ; Birth Control, 1950 ; Birth Control, 1951 ; Birth Control, 1952 ; Birth Control, 1953 ; Birth Control, 1954 ; Birth Control, 1955 ; Birth Control, 1956 ; Birth Control, 1957 ; Birth Control, 1958


Birth Control.

With the outbreak of the war in 1939, the continued drive of the totalitarian nations for increased population and the subjugation of the democracies where birth control programs had been in progress, not only did activities cease in large part in those countries, but with the rigid censorship no news on what was transpiring filtered through.

The forced migration of millions of people in Central Europe, the starvation of millions more, the separation of families, with great bodies of troops either in movement or at the various fronts and away from home, all acted as a form of birth control. The malnutrition extending over large areas in Europe will affect fertility adversely during and after the European war. With these factors will come the fear of depopulation which manifested itself before the war. It is to be hoped that there will also follow increased recognition of the need for intelligent and honest efforts to solve the problems of population pressure, especially those dealing with population distribution in relation to national resources. Without such solution, a lasting peace can never be achieved for these causes are basic reasons for aggression.

Emphasis in the United States birth control movement was, in 1940, on the need for expanding birth control services as a means of strengthening the physical and economic well-being of the nation as it planned for national defense.

Australia. - Birth control clinics continued to operate in Australia, but mothers in the low income group were given a maternity bonus of $20 on the birth of each child and in New South Wales a small weekly payment for each child after the first.

Cuba. - In Havana, films dealing with the "Technique of Contraception" were widely presented to the medical profession and the leading medical associations. These is particular interest in the birth control program of its neighbouring island, Puerto Rico, where efforts to solve similar problems of overpopulation have been under way for several years.

England. - Activities of the Family Planning association continued in Great Britain up to the outbreak of the war. Birth control clinics still functioned. The clinic of Dr. Marie Stopes, the first established in London, was bombed in an air raid in Oct. 1940 and partly demolished.

France. - The new code which went into effect late in 1939, not only provided new and drastic regulations against abortion, but prohibited the advertising of contraception. Because of censorship of everything published, including even a discussion of contraception, La Grande Reforme , the French Neo-Malthusian journal, edited by Eugene Humbert, suspended publication late in that year.

Following the conquest of France, Jean Ybarnegaray, minister of youth in the Vichy government, announced a new policy to stimulate the birth rate. The young women of France will be educated for one purpose only! "To return to their traditional purpose of life- being in their homes and living only to raise strong useful men." Fathers of families will be given preference over bachelors in both public and private employment and will be paid in proportion to the size of their families.

Germany. - Germany continued an uncompromising opposition to any form of birth control. In Dec. 1939, a new population policy was officially announced. All soldiers going to the front were expected to leave children or prospective children behind them.

Since the outbreak of the war, censorship in Germany has resulted in a complete cessation of all statistical material on population.

Holland. - New birth control clinics were opened in Amsterdam and Enschede, both in industrial sections where many factory workers live. This progress took place prior to the invasion of Holland. After that, no news was received.

India. - The All-India Women’s conference, which met in Allahabad in Jan. 1940, adopted a new resolution on family planning which urged that women medical officers in municipal and government hospitals, dispensaries and health centres advise married women on child spacing and that the technique of contraception be taught these officers.

The National planning commission appointed by the national congress passed a resolution that family planning and limitation of children were essentials in the interest of national economy and urged the state to adopt a policy encouraging the establishment of birth control clinics and other necessary measures to encourage the spread of cheap and safe methods of birth control.

Japan. - Japan’s official pressure for a higher birth rate during the Sino-Japanese war resulted in an increase in the rate of infant mortality. Coupled with the demand for an increase in population, as a patriotic duty during the war, suppression of birth control clinics and of discussion of birth control continued.

New Zealand. - The Sex Hygiene and Birth Regulation society of New Zealand dissolved during 1940 to re-form as the Family Planning Association, affiliated with the British organization. A deputation of workers from the association in conference with the ministry of health requested that contraceptive advice be given by physicians, when necessary, at state maternity hospitals.

Puerto Rico. - With the legality of contraceptive advice, under medical direction, established in Puerto Rico by legal decision in 1939, clinic services have been established under the supervision of the Puerto Rico board of health. The Associacion pro Salud Maternal e Infantil de Puerto Rico, under the medical direction of Dr. J. S. Belaval, continued its educational and research efforts to determine the type of contraceptive best adapted for use on the island. Public interest in the medical and public health aspects of birth control were stimulated by a visit from Mrs. Sanger in 1940 and the medical films on contraception were being widely shown among scientific and medical groups.

Sweden. - The new population measures instituted in Sweden which went into effect Jan. 1, 1938, based on the principle that voluntary parenthood and a positive population policy must be brought together, were in their second year. This policy emphasizes that only children welcome to their parents are wanted by the nation; but it also recognizes that certain social conditions must be rearranged so that more children can be welcomed. Birth control services were widely extended to reach all groups of society, but to reduce the economic motive for extreme family regulation, a series of measures, involving not cash premiums to parents but health and environmental services benefiting the children themselves, were put into effect. Hence skilled labourers and artisans in Swedish cities are having more children than the unskilled. It is to be hoped that the war will not destroy Sweden’s interesting and historic experiment.

United States: Clinics. - The growth of birth control centres in the United States continued. On Nov. 1, 1940 these totalled 589, of which 106 were in hospitals, 178 in health departments and 305 in other quarters, largely extramural. Of these centres, 206 were supported wholly or in part by public funds.

Human Fertility. - In Jan. 1940 the Journal of Contraception, published by the medical department of the Birth Control federation, changed its name to Human Fertility, as more truly expressing its contents.

Field Work. - Representatives of the Birth Control Federation of America, Inc. co-operating with various health agencies, extended birth control services to underprivileged mothers in 11 states not yet ready to undertake state-wide programs under their health departments. The services were medically supervised and simple contraceptives were advised.

U.S. Population Policies. - Wide attention was given to a report by the Population committee of the National Economic and Social Planning association which advocated "Provision for scientific information concerning appropriate methods of contraception for all potential parents is an essential measure for sound population policy."

Special Negro Project. - The federation, through a special grant of funds, established a division of Negro service, sponsored by a National Advisory council which included Negro leadership in all fields. Two special Demonstration projects were established, one in Nashville, Tenn. and one in Berkeley county, S.C., to study the effects of medically directed contraception upon the health and welfare of the Negro populations of those sections. The Urban project in Nashville is under the direction of the City Health officers and the Rural project will be supervised by the chairman of the Committee on Maternal Welfare of the South Carolina State Medical association.

Legal Action.- The Federal Trade commission was active during 1940 against false claims for a number of commercial contraceptives. Cease and desist order were issued against some and suits instituted against others. Such government action was welcomed by the organized movement for birth control, as a step in regulation of the bootleg traffic in undependable contraceptives.

Legal Decisions: Connecticut.- On March 21, 1940, the Supreme Court of Errors of the State of Connecticut, by a vote of 3 to 2, handed down a decision patterned on that in Massachusetts in 1938. The Connecticut decision upheld the existing statute and ruled that under it, it was illegal for a physician to prescribe, or a patient to use, contraceptives, even where definite medical indications existed. Connecticut is now one of the only two states in the Union where a doctor is forbidden to advise a patient on contraception and remains the only state where the use of contraceptives is illegal.

Iowa.- A decision in a suit brought against a druggist in Iowa, in 1937, was handed down by the supreme court of that state in 1939. The druggist was accused of violating the law by distributing a pamphlet entitled "Birth Control." The court ruled him not guilty because the code of laws of the state specifically exempted medical schools, physicians and druggists from the provisions of the act governing distribution of contraceptive literature or materials.

Massachusetts. - While previous court decisions declared it illegal for a physician to give contraceptive information under any conditions, the decision of the Massachusetts supreme court, Sept. 17, 1940 by a vote of 3 to 1, reversed a former ruling and declared a pharmacist not guilty in selling certain articles for the prevention of conception because there was no proof they were to be used for the prevention of conception. This decision added to the existing legal confusion in Massachusetts, making it possible for bootleg traffic in questionable contraceptives to flourish, while legitimate medical contraceptive service remained outlawed. An Initiative Petition distributed by the Massachusetts Mothers Health council to amend the statutes involved was filed with over 45,000 signatures, though only 20,000 were legally required.

State Birth Control Federations. - There are now 32 organized state birth control organizations co-operating with the Birth Control federation. Dr. Kenneth Rose became executive vice-president of the federation in 1940 and Woodbridge E. Morris, M.D., former director of the division of Maternal and Child Health of the Delaware state board of health became general medical director.


Subject Terms:

Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project


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