Skip to main content

In 1964, when I was a 16-year-old college freshman, my Bronx pediatrician asked if I was sexually active, and offered to prescribe birth control whenever I started having sex.

In 1964 his doing so was legal in New York, because of a 1918 ruling by Judge Frederick E. Crane of the New York Court of Appeals, but not in Massachusetts, where I was in school.

Birth control is only legal in this country because of a concerted effort of civil disobedience carried out by Margaret Sanger and her followers. This diary is a brief look at the legal history of birth control in the United States.

In 1873 the Comstock Act was passed into law, making the dissemination of "obscene" material through the mail illegal. Any attempts in the early part of the 20th century to teach about sexuality and the prevention of pregnancy were prosecuted under the Comstock Act, including not just Margaret Sanger's work, but also a booklet written by Mary Ware Dennett, The Sex Side of Life, which she wrote for her sons when she could not find any adequate literature to assist educating them.

In 1914 Margaret Sanger was arrested for distributing her pamphlet The Woman Rebel, which described and illustrated various methods of contraception. She spent a year in exile, where she met such people as Havelock Ellis, and learned about a Dutch contraceptive device, the diaphragm, which she began importing illegally into the US.

In 1916 Margaret Sanger and her sister Ethel opened a clinic in Brooklyn, NY to educate women about, and to distribute, birth control. It was open for ten days when they were arrested. The trial judge in that 1917 case opined that women did not have "the right to copulate with a feeling of security that there will be no resulting conception." Appeal was denied, but the 1918 related ruling that made contraception legal in the New York circuit followed soon after.

Contraception was still illegal in most states.

Again from Wikipedia:

In 1929, Sanger formed the National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control in order to lobby for legislation to overturn restrictions on contraception.[51] That effort failed to achieve success, so Sanger ordered a diaphragm from Japan in 1932, in order to provoke a decisive battle in the courts. The diaphragm was confiscated by the United States government, and Sanger's subsequent legal challenge led to a 1936 court decision which overturned an important provision of the Comstock laws which prohibited physicians from obtaining contraceptives.[52] This court victory motivated the American Medical Association in 1937 to adopt contraception as a normal medical service and a key component of medical school curriculums
The decision, however, said nothing about the legality of contraception itself, which was still illegal until the Griswold decision of 1965.

The 1879 Connecticut law struck down in Griswold v. Connecticut held

"any person who uses any drug, medicinal article or instrument for the purposes of preventing conception shall be fined not less than forty dollars or imprisoned not less than sixty days." The law further provided that "any person who assists, abets, counsels, causes, hires or commands another to commit any offense may be prosecuted and punished as if he were the principle offender.
The Supreme Court decision held that there is a fundamental right to marital privacy. But contraception was still illegal outside of marriage until 1972.

In 1970 I spent a few days in Boston's Charles Street Jail after a draft board sit-in. Reading the Sunday papers in my cell, I discovered that Bill Baird was in the men's side of the jail after distributing contraceptives. It was a Massachusetts case that led to the 1972 Baird v. Eisenstadt case that found that women, whether married or not, had personal autonomy, and that the distinction in Griswold between married and unmarried women was unconstitutional. This became a strong argument in the Roe decision a year later.

I was 17 in 1965, and the Baird decision was handed down on my 24th birthday. These are rights that were recognized when I was old enough to be affected by them, which makes this issue personal for me in a way I cannot describe.

Recognition of rights is fragile, and the forces that suppressed them for so long are still out there, as this week's decision in the Hobby Lobby case show. It is interesting that Margaret Sanger, early in her career, saw access to contraception as a free speech issue, especially when the distortion of the first amendment in the Hobby Lobby case is considered.

There are so many misconceptions of the case that I wanted to give an idea of the struggle it took before our personal autonomy was recognized. And to point out that Hobby Lobby is not required by the ACA to provide contraception or anything else to its employees. It only has to provide health insurance. The rules for health insurers are something else entirely. Any action that conflates the two is purely political, and this includes the majority decision.

All our freedoms were hard won, and we must not give an inch.

Originally posted to This Week in the War on Women on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 10:31 AM PDT.

Also republished by Kitchen Table Kibitzing, Street Prophets , and Community Spotlight.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  It is common for large companies and unions to (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ramara, whaddaya

    pay for the healthcare costs directly instead of through insurance. Some of them use the services of an insurance company for claims processing, but bear the claims costs themselves.  

    So the follow does not apply for tens of millions of US employees.

    And to point out that Hobby Lobby is not required by the ACA to provide contraception or anything else to its employees. It only has to provide health insurance. The rules for health insurers are something else entirely.

    The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

    by nextstep on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 11:15:00 AM PDT

    •  That would work except for one thing (10+ / 0-)

      Companies that self-insure are already exempt under ERISA.

      Q. Why do employers self fund their health plans?

      A. There are several reasons why employers choose the self-insurance option. The following are the most common reasons:

      The employer can customize the plan to meet the specific health care needs of its workforce, as opposed to purchasing a 'one-size-fits-all' insurance policy.

      The employer maintains control over the health plan reserves, enabling maximization of interest income - income that would be otherwise generated by an insurance carrier through the investment of premium dollars.

      The employer does not have to pre-pay for coverage, thereby providing for improved cash flow.

      The employer is not subject to conflicting state health insurance regulations/benefit mandates, as self-insured health plans are regulated under federal law (ERISA).
      The employer is not subject to state health insurance premium taxes, which are generally 2-3 percent of the premium's dollar value.

      The employer is free to contract with the providers or provider network best suited to meet the health care needs of its employees.

      Source:

      http://www.siia.org/...

      We need a world in which we ask "What's happened to you?" more and "What's wrong with you?" less. (From a comment by Kossack nerafinator)

      by ramara on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 11:41:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  For specifics (4+ / 0-)

        on how the ACA affects self-insured plans see this:

        http://garnerhealth.com/...

        We need a world in which we ask "What's happened to you?" more and "What's wrong with you?" less. (From a comment by Kossack nerafinator)

        by ramara on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 11:49:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Companies that self insure are not exempt from ACA (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        whaddaya

        What does your above comment have to do with the issue of ACA requiring companies that self insure to meet ACA regulations requiring contraception at no cost to employees?

        The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

        by nextstep on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 11:54:43 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  From the second link (5+ / 0-)
          Self-insured group plans pose a serious threat to the regulatory structure of the ACA and in particular to the exchanges. Self-insured plans are not
          subject to the risk adjustment requirements of section 1343, the risk pooling requirements, or the essential benefits requirements.331 They are also exempt from the minimum loss ratio requirements and the requirement that
          insurers justify unreasonable premium increases, although self-insured do not technically have loss ratios or premiums since they are not insured.332

          We need a world in which we ask "What's happened to you?" more and "What's wrong with you?" less. (From a comment by Kossack nerafinator)

          by ramara on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 02:04:26 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  This explains some of the outrageous (6+ / 0-)

            premium increases that employees are seeing at some companies.

            Self-insured companies can line their pockets by massively raising employee premiums, all while waving a red shirt to blame that oh-so-nefarious Obamacare.

            Long-term, they are shooting themselves in the foot, but wingers generally don't care about the long-term.

            "What could BPossibly go wrong??" -RLMiller "God is just pretend." - eru

            by nosleep4u on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 08:43:49 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I didn't know any of this (0+ / 0-)

              until I wanted to check out and answer nextstep's comments.

              We need a world in which we ask "What's happened to you?" more and "What's wrong with you?" less. (From a comment by Kossack nerafinator)

              by ramara on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 09:21:54 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Then why did Hobby Lobby end up in court? (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ramara

                My understanding is that they are self-insured. What you quoted makes it sound like they would have had no requirement to provide contraceptive coverage. There would have been nothing to bring to court, certainly not all the way to the Supreme Court.

                To be first in the soil, which erupts in the coil, of trees veins and grasses all brought to a boil. -- The Maxx

                by notrouble on Thu Jul 03, 2014 at 08:13:25 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Some ACA rules bind them, other's don't. (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  ramara, notrouble

                  Example rule that does not apply: medical spending ratios.

                  Example rule that does apply: no lifetime limits.

                  "What could BPossibly go wrong??" -RLMiller "God is just pretend." - eru

                  by nosleep4u on Thu Jul 03, 2014 at 09:01:57 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  This is the relevant quote (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    notrouble, a2nite
                    Self-insured plans are not
                    subject to the risk adjustment requirements of section 1343, the risk pooling requirements, or the essential benefits requirements.
                    Is the mandate to cover preventive care without cost to the patient part of the "essential benefits requirement?"

                    We need a world in which we ask "What's happened to you?" more and "What's wrong with you?" less. (From a comment by Kossack nerafinator)

                    by ramara on Thu Jul 03, 2014 at 09:10:59 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                •  I have no idea (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  ladybug53, notrouble

                  I'm not a lawyer and did not know any of this until I went to look it up.

                  There are larger agendas at work here, and I'm not sure of all the intricacies of the exemptions. But there is strong political motivation to take down the ACA bit by bit, and I'm sure this suit and others like it have been filed largely for that purpose.

                  We need a world in which we ask "What's happened to you?" more and "What's wrong with you?" less. (From a comment by Kossack nerafinator)

                  by ramara on Thu Jul 03, 2014 at 09:03:37 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  It mostly applies to unions and their insurance. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    ramara

                    It mostly applies to unions and their insurance.

                    •  Unions and association plans (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Bailey2001, notrouble

                      have their own section in the article. Self-insured is a separate category, more like large group plans from employers, which also are not regulated under ACA because they are less likely to abuse workers and have generally been negotiated to get good deals.

                      We need a world in which we ask "What's happened to you?" more and "What's wrong with you?" less. (From a comment by Kossack nerafinator)

                      by ramara on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 07:23:45 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                •  The Becket Foundation asked them to be in on this (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  ramara

                  case or that's what I heard on NPR yesterday.  You can learn more about them here.

                  "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

                  by GreenMother on Thu Jul 03, 2014 at 12:00:06 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

            •  Smaller executive brain function usually leads (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ramara, a2nite

              short term thinking.

              "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

              by GreenMother on Thu Jul 03, 2014 at 11:58:46 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Someone should... (10+ / 0-)

    ...file a suit because Viagra and Cialis violate my religious belief that boners lead to dirty, dirty sex.

    "Wealthy the Spirit which knows its own flight. Stealthy the Hunter who slays his own fright. Blessed is the Traveler who journeys the length of the Light."

    by CanisMaximus on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 02:01:20 PM PDT

  •  "women, whether married or not, had personal (26+ / 0-)

    autonomy"

    We need to keep shouting this from the roof- and mountaintops. People still don't seem to understand this.

    I will fight my autonomy, my daughter's autonomy, my blood sisters' autonomy, my nieces' autonomy and all my sisters around the globe's autonomy. We can't let this go. It's so fundamental.

    I wish we could always keep every conversation about birth control, abortion, sexual consent and any action which involved anyone's body focused on the concept of bodily autonomy and, therefore, a requirement of consent (along with a deep training of what comprises consent.)

    Nothing else matters. So many of these horrible issues would melt away if we could embed this concept into everyone's psyches.

    Building Community. Creating Jobs. Donating Art to Community Organizations. Support the Katalogue

    by UnaSpenser on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 02:10:01 PM PDT

  •  Excellent diary (17+ / 0-)

    See photo in Kos' diary from yesterday
    http://www.dailykos.com/...

    "Didn't my grandma already have this conversation"

    You and I are near the same vintage, and I've been a bit dismayed over the years at how blase many young women are about the potential fragility of various hard won rights they have - from choice to workplace to financial independence. Abortion in particular. But not every young woman imagines she would ever need an abortion. Most of them know they will, or already do, need contraception. Perhaps this will be more of a wake-up.

    “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

    by Catte Nappe on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 02:20:17 PM PDT

    •  It's no wonder (10+ / 0-)

      that birth control advocates from Margaret Sanger to Faye Wattleton to Bill Baird all witnessed women who had tried to self-abort when abortions were illegal. You'd think the connection between contraception and fewer abortions would be obvious, but as the slut-shamers like Rush Limbaugh show, many men have not got further than the judge in 1917 who said women did not have  "the right to copulate with a feeling of security that there will be no resulting conception."

      Funny how that doesn't apply to men...

      We need a world in which we ask "What's happened to you?" more and "What's wrong with you?" less. (From a comment by Kossack nerafinator)

      by ramara on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 03:17:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  For example, Virginia Rappe, maybe (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ramara, Lujane, buffie, FindingMyVoice

        Virginia Rappe was a Hollywood movie star during the silent movie era.  Supposedly she died from injuries sustained from being raped by movie star Fatty Arbuckle.  There was virtually no evidence of Arbuckle's guilt - his accuser did not witness the alleged rape.  A jury Arbuckle was found not guilty, but he was banned from the movies for life.   Recent theories include that she snuck out of the Arbuckle's party in one hotel room to go to another hotel room, where she underwent an abortion that was botched and from which she died "from a ruptured bladder and secondary peritonitis."  Wikipedia article here.

        "Corporations exist not for themselves, but for the people." Ida Tarbell 1908.

        by Navy Vet Terp on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 04:32:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I remember...... (24+ / 0-)

    Approximately 1970 (I don't remember the exact year), I had to go to a recommended psychiatrist, who asked me specific questions to which I had to provide specific answers.  It had to do with my mental health if I was forced to carry an unwanted child to term.  I don't remember if I took the results to my doctor, or if the shrink was able to prescribe.  It was a long time ago.  But that was how a single woman got access to birth control in circa 1970.  

    This was in WI which was actually progressive by providing a loophole in order to obtain birth control.

    I fought for civil rights and access to the voting booth.  I fought for the right of anyone under the age of 21 who was eligible for the draft but not eligible to vote, to have the voting age lowered to 18.  I fought against the Vietnam War.  I fought for 'women's liberation' and women's rights to fair pay, and the determination of what kind of life I wanted to lead and whether or when to bear children.  

    I never in a million years thought that at 64 years old I would be fighting these battles again.  

    Sigh.

  •  Thank You .... (6+ / 0-)

    re-posted to Street Prophets.

    I'm looking forward to seeing you at NN14.  Busy day for me I have to run out.

    JON

    "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

    by linkage on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 02:31:41 PM PDT

  •  Thank you so much for this, ramara (9+ / 0-)

    It's a history we can not afford to forget.

    There is something in us that refuses to be regarded as less than human. We are created for freedom - Archbishop Desmond Tutu

    by Onomastic on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 02:34:58 PM PDT

  •  Thank you for this history. (5+ / 0-)

    Our rights are fundamental and inalienable, but our constitutions and laws protecting our exercise thereof are so recent, and so fragile.

    © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

    by cai on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 02:36:45 PM PDT

  •  A couple of mothers of young women (11+ / 0-)

    Have told me that their daughters aren't interested in politics because they think the big battles have been fought and won, and what is left is the small stuff, so why bother. One learned in her thirties that this wasn't true, the other is still oblivious, despite her mother's efforts.  

    Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you. Gabby Giffords.

    by Leftleaner on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 02:41:01 PM PDT

  •  Like many other women my age, I had to put on (9+ / 0-)

    a fake wedding band and lie about my marital status to get access to the pill. There were a few doctors in Chicago who knew it was all a farce, but gladly played along. Of course, they were paid in cash and it wasn't cheap, but it was a whole lot cheaper than the alternative.

  •  In some states (4+ / 0-)

    Pharmacies are reportedly considering discounting remaining stock of contraceptives awaiting total ban on their sale following ruling.  (that is where RWM gets its cheap contraceptive prices.)(http://www.thenation.com/...) (http://thinkprogress.org/...)

  •  Thank you so much for this history. (3+ / 0-)

    I was lucky enough to grow up under the tutelage of a pro-choice Mom (who was so before abortion was legal).  The creeping threads of theocracy from the right wing will bind all of us if we do not keep up the fight -- but how sad (especially for all of us who remember how hard it was before and celebrated the changes) to have to fight these fights all over again.

    GREAT diary.

    And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

    by noweasels on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 08:30:43 PM PDT

  •  I was born after most of those battles. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ramara, FindingMyVoice

    But

    I'm old enough that my first girlfriend (a very down-to-earth, intelligent and serious person) would not go into a pharmacy to buy contraceptives - even a pharmacy in a different town - because of the possibility the pharmacist would be a sex-control freak that would steal her info and do something nefarious. It was pretty clear that a pharmacist had some something like that previously, either to her or to a friend.

    Sure enough, at least one pharmacist gave me the hairy eye when buying contraceptives. It was beyond creepy.

    "What could BPossibly go wrong??" -RLMiller "God is just pretend." - eru

    by nosleep4u on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 08:55:02 PM PDT

  •  Family history (3+ / 0-)

    The Virginia Company settled on the largest East Coast area of Native American Indian occupation around Chesapeake Bay that seems to have been 6000 years old.  The Indians became especially concerned when the white wives arrived from England and began producing a baby every year.  Most Native American women had only 2 to 3 children in their child-bearing years.  We will never have a culture that supports women until we learn she needs to have freedom to plan her pregnancies.  Also she needs to live away from the men with machine guns all around the world terrorizing women and children as we see daily in the news.  For an employee of Hobby Lobby to buy an IUD it would cost her a month's salary.  That is probably the same difference as the income to the CEO versus his workers.  Happy 4th of July.  Time to put some of those nice ideas into practice and retire the "religious" Catholic Republican "Justices" ruling from their ideology.

    •  Yes. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FindingMyVoice, BigPirateJim

      I've been concerned that almost nobody has brought up that the five justices who wrote this decision are not only men, but Catholic men. When I have raised it with Catholic friends they agree that it's very important, and that there was possibly political bargaining between the Vatican, the American bishops and the GW government at least, and who knows what other political people.

      An unholy alliance.

      We need a world in which we ask "What's happened to you?" more and "What's wrong with you?" less. (From a comment by Kossack nerafinator)

      by ramara on Thu Jul 03, 2014 at 08:02:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Rec'd and hotlisted - thank you (5+ / 0-)

    This blew my mind:

    Women do not have "the right to copulate with a feeling of security that there will be no resulting conception."
    The very origins of the anti-abortion movement. This should leave zero doubt in anyone's mind that the only "life" anti-abortion and anti-all forms of birth control movements are concerned with is the life of women that they need to control.

    Mediocrity cannot know excellence ~ Sherlock Holmes

    by La Gitane on Thu Jul 03, 2014 at 08:49:28 AM PDT

  •  Info on Sanger, please... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ramara, jan4insight

    Some religious conservatives of my acquaintance claim that Ms. Sanger was interested in abortion and birth control primarily to keep the "lower orders," and especially Blacks and other minorities from reproducing. They also claim she was into eugenics.

    What info can you provide to help refute such claims? and what are some good sources--books, articles, etc.?

    •  She did have an interest (4+ / 0-)

      in eugenics early in the century, along with many notable intellectuals. But what happened in Germany shocked her. She had pulled out of the eugenics movement earlier than that - she had been hoping they would espouse birth control as a means of improving human life.

      She opened a clinic in Harlem in 1930 at the request of some community groups. There were some in the black community, but her supporters included the NAACP and WEB DuBois among many others.

      I have written about her and this issue twice, in 2011 here and later in one part of my four-part series based on an interview with Faye Wattleton that ran in February 2013 on the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona blog.

      The anti-choice fanatics really play this up, doing things like posting billboards in black neighborhoods. Faye Wattleton's take on it all is very interesting.

      We need a world in which we ask "What's happened to you?" more and "What's wrong with you?" less. (From a comment by Kossack nerafinator)

      by ramara on Thu Jul 03, 2014 at 12:15:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Here are some quotes from Sanger (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ramara

        http://en.wikiquote.org/...

        The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it. The same factors which create the terrible infant mortality rate, and which swell the death rate of children between the ages of one and five, operate even more extensively to lower the health rate of the surviving members.
        Birth control itself, often denounced as a violation of natural law, is nothing more or less than the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit, of preventing the birth of defectives or of those who will become defectives. So, in compliance with nature’s working plan, we must permit womanhood its full development before we can expect of it efficient motherhood. If we are to make racial progress, this development of womanhood must precede motherhood in every individual woman.
        [Charity] conceals a stupid cruelty, because it is not courageous enough to face unpleasant facts. Aside from the question of the unfitness of many women to become mothers, aside from the very definite deterioration in the human stock that such programs would inevitably hasten, we may question its value even to the normal though unfortunate mother. For it is never the intention of such philanthropy to give the poor over-burdened and often undernourished mother of the slum the opportunity to make the choice herself, to decide whether she wishes time after time to bring children into the world. It merely says 'Increase and multiply: We are prepared to help you do this.' Whereas the great majority of mothers realize the grave responsibility they face in keeping alive and rearing the children they have already brought into the world, the maternity center would teach them how to have more. The poor woman is taught how to have her seventh child, when what she wants to know is how to avoid bringing into the world her eighth. ... Such philanthropy, as Dean Inge has so unanswerably pointed out, is kind only to be cruel, and unwittingly promotes precisely the results most deprecated. It encourages the healthier and more normal sections of the world to shoulder the burden of unthinking and indiscriminate fecundity of others; which brings with it, as I think the reader must agree, a dead weight of human waste. Instead of decreasing and aiming to eliminate the stocks that are most detrimental to the future of the race and the world, it tends to render them to a menacing degree dominant.
        Eugenics aims to arouse the enthusiasm or the interest of the people in the welfare of the world fifteen or twenty generations in the future. On its negative side it shows us that we are paying for and even submitting to the dictates of an ever increasing, unceasingly spawning class of human beings who never should have been born at all—that the wealth of individuals and of states is being diverted from the development and the progress of human expression and civilization.
        All of our problems are the result of overbreeding among the working class, and if morality is to mean anything at all to us, we must regard all the changes which tend toward the uplift and survival of the human race as moral.
        The main objects of the Population Congress would be [...] (f) to give certain dysgenic groups in our population their choice of segregation or sterilization.
        The ministers work is also important and also he should be trained, perhaps by the Federation as to our ideals and the goal that we hope to reach. We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.
        As for rejecting eugenics, well, this is pretty thin milk.
        In passing, we should here recognize the difficulties presented by the idea of 'fit' and 'unfit.' Who is to decide this question? The grosser, the more obvious, the undeniably feeble-minded should, indeed, not only be discouraged but prevented from propagating their kind. But among the writings of the representative Eugenists one cannot ignore the distinct middle-class bias that prevails.
        Interestingly enough, she was not a fan of abortion.
        While there are cases where even the law recognizes an abortion as justifiable if recommended by a physician, I assert that the hundreds of thousands of abortions performed in America each year are a disgrace to civilization.
        .we explained simply what contraception was; that abortion was the wrong way — no matter how early it was performed it was taking a life; that contraception was the better way, the safer way — it took a little time, a little trouble, but was well worth while in the long run, because life had not yet begun.
        •  Other proponents (0+ / 0-)

          of eugenics in the early 20th century included Teddy Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, GB Shaw - people whom the world considers progressive. She was anti-Nazi, and also against their supporters in this country.

          She saw her mother die early of TB after bearing 11 children and having 7 miscarriages (her mother was a devout Catholic, while her father was a freethinker). Later, as a visiting nurse on the lower east side she witnessed women who had tried to self-abort. One such woman, Sadie Sachs, almost died, Sanger and a doctor saved her. When she begged the doctor to tell her how to avoid getting pregnant, he told her to send her husband to sleep on the roof. Knowing that having another child would kill her, Sachs again tried to abort when she inevitably became pregnant again. This time they couldn't save her. Sanger often told this story as the catalyst for her work to promote contraception.

          She was against abortion, not surprising since her experience of it came in such a terrible way.

          She believed that any woman of normal intelligence was the best person to decide whether and when to have a child.

          We need a world in which we ask "What's happened to you?" more and "What's wrong with you?" less. (From a comment by Kossack nerafinator)

          by ramara on Sat Jul 05, 2014 at 01:52:55 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Perhaps you can provide some cites? (0+ / 0-)
            She was against abortion, not surprising since her experience of it came in such a terrible way.
            However, she also objected on moral grounds - that a fetus was a life.
            we explained simply what contraception was; that abortion was the wrong way — no matter how early it was performed it was taking a life; that contraception was the better way, the safer way — it took a little time, a little trouble, but was well worth while in the long run, because life had not yet begun.
            She believed that any woman of normal intelligence was the best person to decide whether and when to have a child.
            Her words do not seem to indicate this.
            The main objects of the Population Congress would be [...] (f) to give certain dysgenic groups in our population their choice of segregation or sterilization.
            If she was talking about women of such sub-normal intelligence that they could not reasonably bear and take care of children then I don't see how you could expect them to make an informed choice between segregation or sterilization.  It sounds more like she is talking about the usual suspects - disfavored groups like gypsies, blacks, Jews, gays, criminals, prostitutes, etc - people who could reasonably choose between segregation and sterilization.
            •  She was far from perfect (0+ / 0-)

              and definitely a person of her time - again, far from what we accept today as progressive thought, but common among progressive thinkers of the time.

              The point is, she accomplished an enormous amount (not least of which is starting the research that led to development of the pill), and was willing to put herself on the line to help women, especially poor women.

              She didn't like it when they changed the name to Planned Parenthood - she believed that women should be able to control their conception so they could take pleasure in sex. Her second marriage was quite radical, with separate houses for her and her husband among other things.

              We need a world in which we ask "What's happened to you?" more and "What's wrong with you?" less. (From a comment by Kossack nerafinator)

              by ramara on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 09:16:41 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  thanks for 1st hand accounts (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FindingMyVoice, ramara, jan4insight

    that help the Young'ens (under 60) to see the roads traveled by some of us older folks.

  •  Health Insurance in lieu of Pay? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ramara

    So many issues involving conservatives turn on the definition of terms:  Conception, person-hood, baby, etc.
    When we work, we are paid by our employer.  Other than payment in dollars, what other sorts of payment should be considered "legitimate", and a deductible business expense rather than a gift (with strings attached)?

    If I own a supermarket, can I give you 25% of your pay in vouchers to be used only at the company store?
    Is an employer entitled to manipulate the means by which compensation is paid so as to serve the employer's political, religious, or economic preferences? Is the government obligated to accept such attempts to control the personal choices of the employee as a "legitimate" form of compensation?

    A company health insurance plan that is tailored to the religious standard of the employer is not a legitimate and neutral form of compensation. The employee has "earned" the health insurance benefit by his labor, and as such, it should not be tailored to meet the desire of the employer to limit the personal choices of the worker.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site