Margaret Sanger, " [New Bedford Massachusetts Radio Speech] ," 28 Sep 1940.

Typed Speech. Source: Margaret Sanger Papers, Smith Collection , Margaret Sanger Microfilm S72:0173 .

Margaret Sanger gave a radio speech in New Bedford, Massachusetts from 6:00 - 6:15 p.m. The following press release preceded the talk.Interlineations and corrections made by Margaret Sanger. For draft versions see Margaret Sanger Microfilm S72:0155, 0161, 0167, and Library of Congress Microfilm 130:0103.


A few years ago the people of the world, for the first time in the history of man, were confident that ↑at last↓ an enduring peace could be achieved. But today the world is swept by the most brutal war that man has ever known. Even during those years when nations were planning for peace, there were forces ↑already↓ at work that made this ↑Second World↓ war inevitable.

This war is really, but one phase of a struggle which has been in progress throughout all of ↑the↓ history ↑of mankind↓ . Actually those same forces of destruction which are now sweeping Europe like a fire ↑,↓ yearly take the lives of millions throughout the world--of thousands even in our ↑own↓ country. ↑For↓ As long as people are born into the world by chance rather than by the intelligent choice of parents, they will die by the thousands, some even before they have begun to live ↑at all↓ , others before they have lived out a normal life ↑their First 5 years↓ .

We are horrified because in the present world war so much suffering has fallen on innocent women and children. In the desperate struggle for survival which continues even in years of peace, it is the children, and the women who bear them ↑the children↓ , that suffer the heaviest toll.

Fourteen thousand mothers lost in childbirth!

Seventy-five thousand babies born dead!

Seventy thousand babies lost in the first month of life!

These are the casualties in our own country during one year of peace. Or is this peace? The war in Europe has not killed more innocents than these. But these are only the dead. What of those who survive? ↑What of the living?↓ Let us consider the ↑our own American↓ children.

Six million are improperly nourished.

A million have weak or damaged hearts

Three millions have impaired hearing

A million have defective speech

850,000 definitely ↑are↓ feeble-minded

300,000, crippled

400,000, Tubercular

50,000, partially blind

And the cause of this?

Mothers dying needlessly, in giving birth to children who might better not have been born; fighters ↑men↓ fighting a hopeless fight to provide for their families the necessities of decent living; young men and young women forced by need or neglect into lawlessness, nations vying with one another for land with which to support their surplus population--these all spring from the same cause, the heedless, unplanned reproduction of ↑the↓ human beings ↑race↓ .

But these are the conditions of the jungle. We take it for granted that in the jungle thousands will die by violent death or by starvation for every one that survives. But among human being ↑s↓ this is the very abdication of reason.

It is said that the ability to laugh distinguishes men ↑man↓ from the lower animals. Another characteristics of man alone is the ability to plan the birth of his young. This is the foundation upon which he can build a way of life which offers to every individual the full promise of his in-born potentialities. Planned parenthood, Children born because they are wanted, because their parents can provide for them the environment of a wholesome life; the family-basic unit of any civilized society--strong in its loyalties, cheerful in its outlook, self-sustaining and self-respecting.

Science has given us the means of planned parenthood. Contraception, or the evidence of unintended conception, is possible to every couple. The methods are simple, reliable--made so by years of patient research. This knowledge is, or should be, a part of the working equipment of every practising physician.

Why, then, are children still born unwanted, to live in neglect, and to become charges of society?

It is not because of the indifference of women. This is certain. It is not because of the callousness of men. Men as well as women benefit by planned parenthood, and they too are seeking the means to achieve it.

It is not because of the inability or the unwillingness of doctors to advise their patients. A few valiant leaders of the medical profession have fought for years to make planned parenthood a reality.

Planned parenthood is not now a reality because of the shame with which so-called reformers of an older generation invested any matter related to the love of men and women, ↑idea↓ and because one religious body has tried to impose upon all the people its won conception of the proper marriage relationship. These two ↑This↓ attitude, by tactics unworthy of a democracy, were ↑was↓ written into laws which restricted the information which the medical profession could give to a patient, even though life itself were at stake. A more enlightened age has restored to the medical profession its inalienable right to use the full resources of science for the health and welfare of patients. Massachusetts, however, remains as a dark area.

Massachusetts well may be proud of its record of caring for its mothers and children, of the schools it has built, of its health services and of its care of the old and the dependent. But of what avail are these in meeting the greatest need of any family if the law in Massachusetts so curbs the rights of the medical profession ↑,↓ that a doctor cannot tell a patient how she can avoid a pregnancy? [illegible] ↑plan a family.↓

In five years, from 1934 to 1938, in this rich state, 6,702 infants under one year of age died in six of its largest cities, 14,207 died throughout the state. There were 9,092 still births. One thousand, five hundred and twenty-nine mothers died in child birth. Most of these were needless deaths. The waste and the human suffering they caused could so easily have been avoided. There was the knowledge and there was the eagerness to learn. But ignorance, with a brutality as great as war’s, brought death at the point of life’s beginning, or its highest achievement.

What does the law in Massachusetts say? It says that anyone giving information regarding any means whatever of preventing pregnancy ↑contraception↓ is guilty of a crime ↑,↓ and shall be punished by imprisonment in a state prison or be fined. In 1938, the highest court of this state held that the law is “sweeping, absolute, and devoid of ambiguity” and “contains no exceptions”.!!

Well, this law is not going to stay on the statute books. It is in conflict with the rights of the medical profession, and with the interests of the people. It runs counter to the basic liberties guaranteed to us in the bill of rights. It has no place among the laws of any democracy.

Throughout the nations the great movement for planned parenthood is gaining momentum. Leaders in every walk of life are represented in the national sponsoring committee. In two states information about child spacing is regularly given through the public health services. Local public health units in hundreds of communities in other states are doing the same. Educators, scientists, clergymen, see planned parenthood as a way to strengthen our human resources in a time of great national need. Most important of all, in the heart of every woman, is the conviction that women should have the right to decide when they shall bring children into the world.

Only in Massachusetts and her sister-state Connecticut does the law stand as an obstacle to this movement. Only here has ignorance gained a victory over science, shame over the dignity of human life. This is not of the choosing of the people of this state today.

The people of Massachusetts want this law changed. In a recent poll by an impartial agency, 82 per cent of the people of this state declared that they would vote for legislation which would free doctors to prescribe contraception ↑,↓ for their patients. The medical profession itself is taking leadership in a campaign at thi this time to see that the wishes of the people, thus expressed, result in a change in this outmoded law.

You will want to help in this campaign, and in saying that I know that I am speaking to the great majority of those who are listening.

All that you need do is to register your will. Write to the Massachusetts Mother’s Health Council, 143 Newbury Street, Boston, or in care of this station, and say that you want to sign the petition to the legislature for restoration of medical rights in Massachusetts. You will be sent a blank. Your signature on that blank will be a blow to the bigotry and ignorance which now keeps motherhood in bondage in Massachusetts.


Subject Terms:

Copyright 2003. Margaret Sanger Project


valid