Margaret Sanger, " [Birth Control, 1938] ," 1938.

Published Article. Source: Britannica Book of the Year (1938) , LCM 51:152B .

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, 1958For a typewritten draft, see S71:0964


Birth Control.

Significant developments in the world-wide birth control movement in 1937 related to its legal and scientific foundations, extension of facilities, and a more rational understanding and acceptance of principles and methods. Increased medical approval and participation were marked.

United States. --

Birth control under medical direction became legal on Nov. 30, 1936, when the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second District rendered a decision in the test case of Dr. Hannah M. Stone, of the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau, that the Federal obscenity laws do not apply to the legitimate activities of physicians, and that they may prescribe contraceptives in the interests of the health and general well-being of their patients. This decision terminated a long fight against an outmoded Federal law classifying contraceptive information and supplies with obscenity. Although the decision was handed down late in 1936, its impact and impulse to new activity were felt in 1937. This decision brought the movement to the goal it had sought through legislation.

The National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control dissolved, and published a final report.

The American Medical Association approved birth control as an integral part of medical practice and education during 1937. This was one of the most important milestones in the movement. A report by a special committee was adopted by the association’s House of Delegates. The association is investigating contraception and will promote the teaching of birth control in medical school. The importance of its attitude and activities is outstanding.

The Journal of Conception, the only technical publication devoted to the biological and clinical aspects of human fertility and its control, completed its second year under the auspices of the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau, New York, and its 200 affiliated clinics. The scope of the Clinical Research Bureau was expanded. It has provided this service to 61,000 mothers, serves as a clearing house of information, and promotes new centres. It is the first large centre for contraceptive counsel and the largest clinic of its kind. It enlarged its educational department, exhibited scientific films to medical groups, expanded its plans and began a campaign to induce public health authorities to provide birth control facilities. It continues its research on contraceptive products.

A temporary set-back came in one American State with the convictions of clinic officials and staff in the lower courts of certain Massachusetts cities. These cases are being appealed. Legalization stimulated efforts to incorporate birth control into the programs of public and voluntary health, welfare, child-caring and maternity organizations, medical colleges, hospitals, health centres, and clinics. Forty-nine new centres were opened in 19 States.

In some religious groups objections to birth control continue on grounds advanced as fundamental. Some rest, however, on the assumption of moral implications which ignore scientific facts and human realities. But the trend is steadily toward wider acceptance.

Bermuda. --

Upon the invitation of the Department of Health Margaret Sanger visited Bermuda to help establish birth control centres.

Canada. --

The Ontario Court of Appeals dismissed an appeal from a magistrate’s decision in a test case turning on whether an admitted violation of a statute was “for the public good,” a victory for birth control.

China. --

At the request of medical leaders, Mrs. Sanger planned to visit China, but hostilities with Japan interfered. The Chinese Medical Association approved contraception as a public health activity.

England. --

Following representations by a group headed by Lord Horder representing the National Birth Control Association and allied societies, the Minister of Health increased the power of local maternity and child welfare centres to give birth control advice.

Iceland. --

A law was passed directing the Minister of Health to provide physicians with birth control information when pregnancy threatens the health of mother or child.

Japan. --

Impressive progress is being made in Japan under the leadership of Baroness Ishimoto.

Puerto Rico. --

A bill passed by the legislature and signed by Acting Governor Ramos legalized birth control, following efforts instituted five years ago by ex-Governor Beverly.


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Copyright 2003. Margaret Sanger Project


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