Margaret Sanger, "Editorial Comment," Dec 1917.
Source: " Birth Control Review, Dec. 1917, p. 16."
THE APPEAL in the case of Fania Mindell has been won. Miss Mindell was arrested in the Brownsville birth control clinic for selling "What Every Girl Should Know," Margaret Sanger's book on sex hygiene. By a 2 to 1 vote, the Court of Special Sessions declared this book to be "indecent," Judges Herman and O'Keefe voting for conviction and Judge Freschi for acquittal. The forces of reaction were bolstered up by Judge James C. Cropsey, of the Supreme Court, who went out of his way to declare that the information in the book was what "no girl should know." Yet the reversal of judgment accorded by the Appellate Division was by an unanimous vote. This victory was of great importance, because several other persons who had been arrested for selling "What Every Girl Should Know," and whose cases were being held in abeyance, had the charges against them dismissed as soon as the final verdict was rendered in the Mindell appeal. The latter cost several hundred dollars in fees for records, copies of the minutes, printing bills, etc. But it goes without saying that under our present system of justice no compensation has been awarded to those who financed the appeal. To date, the Court has not even refunded the $50, which Fania Mindell was, by its own admission, wrongly fined. Once again it has been proved that it takes money to obtain "justice," and that the workers cannot possibly afford to appeal cases.
NEW YORK has just enfranchised more than 3,000,000 women. The ardent, self-sacrificing workers who devoted years of their lives to bringing this result about deserve the highest praise and the gratitude of their sex. After their long fight, they can now enjoy the fruits of victory. But only too large a proportion of those they have set free politically will be quite unable to take advantage of the vote that has been so dearly earned. There are hundreds of thousands of mothers who are so submerged beneath the burdens of child-bearing that they will not have the time even to cast their vote, much less to take an intelligent interest in the problems of society. Surely the next step is to set these women free. Birth control is the fundamental liberty which they must have. We appeal to the new women citizens of New York State to assist us in waging the battle which now takes pre-eminence-that for the repeal of laws preventing the dissemination of birth control knowledge.
THE WAR has taken the best energies of most radical and forward movements. Persons who formerly were willing to work for the advancement of humanity are now devoting all their strength to the world tragedy. But there are still some of us who believe birth control to be a fundamental solution to the problems of poverty, prostitution, child labor and even war itself. The intolerance of our public censors prevents us from being very active on the platform or in the press, at least until peace is restored. But there is one way in which we can use this dark period of repression to serve the future of the movement. We can do definite and constructive work by gathering data so convincing that the Legislature of New York State will be unable to ignore the demand for the repeal of Section 1142. Governor Whitman promised last Spring to appoint a commission to investigate the conditions bearing upon birth control, but the war has delayed this official action for the present. The thing for us who are still devoted to our cause to do, is to hasten the appointment of the commission by preparing the material on which it must work. Were we, for instance, to collect the histories of5,000 women living in prostitution, 5,000 women toiling in factories, 5,000 women toiling in mills, 5,000 inmates of prisons, 5,000 derelicts of poorhouses,
and show what percentage of these people come from large families, so searching a light would be thrown on this new angle of social betterment that the Governor's commission would be stimulated into action and the benighted laws against birth control would be wiped off the statute books. The editors of this magazine would be glad to hear from readers in all parts of the country willing to help either by contributing to an investigation fund or by volunteering their time and services for research work.
THE JUSTICES of the Supreme Court of New York state receive $17,500 a year. On this pitiable salary, it is, of course, unreasonable to expect them to put in much time on writing opinions which would serve to explain their frequently obscure acts to the public that pays them. For instance, when the Appellate Division, First Department, decided to uphold the Commissioner of Licenses as against Judge Bijur, in connection with the birth control photoplay, they made absolutely no comment. The scholarly document in which Judge Bijur demonstrated that the film was not immoral was thrown out of court with the rubber-stamp comment, "Decision reversed." Again, when "What Every Girl Should Know" won the right to be circulated, the Court merely O.K.'d it as being "decent," without handing down a written opinion which would have served as a precedent in future appeals for the right to print the truth. Similar books will have to go through the same ridiculous procedure, and unwind the same red tape which one strong, intelligent opinion would have cut for good and all.
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project