Margaret Sanger, "Prudence or Prudery in Sex Matters," [23 Aug 1919] .

Published article. Source: Fairplay, [Aug. 23, 1919] .

This is the first of a six part series of the same title. For the conclusion of this article see "Birth Control: Yes or No?," Sept. 20, 1919. Sanger also wrote another article in the series on Oct. 4,1919.The article was introduced by a brief editorial identification of Margaret Sanger.

Prudence or Prudery in Sex Matters

Family limitation will be practiced. No law has yet been framed that can prevent it. The church has been powerless and the champions of wornout moral creeds find themselves trying in vain to force all women to become mothers against their wills.

Abundant evidence of the futility of seeking to impose involuntary motherhood upon women is found in the size of the families of the rich, of the well-to-do and of the wage workers of larger earning capacity. The women of these classes long ago refused to be mere brood animals -- usually they prefer to be voluntary mothers, determining for themselves the number of children they shall have and when they shall have them. Family limitation for them is an accomplished fact.

It is also an accomplished fact with many of the wives of the less highly paid workers. But with the latter, as well as with some of their more fortunate sisters, family limitation takes a far more drastic and too often a terribly dangerous course. The awakened woman of today will not bear unwanted children. She will not bear more children that she can care for. And if she is denied the knowledge of the safe, harmless, scientific methods of Birth Control, she limits her family by means of abortion.

In the very nature of the case, it is impossible to get accurate figures upon the number of abortions performed annually in the United States. It is often said, however, that one in five pregnancies end in abortion. One estimate is that 150,000 occur in the United States each year and that 25,000 women die of the effects of such operations in every twelve months. Dr. William J. Robinson asserts that there are 1,000,000 abortions every year in this country and adds that the estimate is conservative. He quotes Justice John Proctor Clark as saying that there are at least 100,000 in the same length of time in New York City alone.

Dr. Max Hirsch, a famous authority quotes an opinion that there are 2,000,000 abortions in the United States every year!

"I believe," declares Dr. Hirsch, "that I may say without exaggeration that absolutely spontaneous or unprovoked abortions are extremely rare, that a vast majority -- I should estimate it at 80 per cent -- have a criminal origin."

"Our examinations have informed us that the largest number of abortions are performed on married women. This fact brings us to the conclusion that contraceptive measures among the upper classes and the practice of abortion among the lower class, are the real means employed to regulate the number of offspring."

The question, then, is not whether family limitation should be practiced. It is being practiced; it has long been practiced and it will always be practiced. The question now is whether it is to be attained by normal, scientific Birth Control methods or by the abnormal, often dangerous, surgical operation. That is the question which the church, the state, the moralist, and most of all, the woman herself, must face.

The knowledge of Birth Control methods may for a time be denied to the woman of the working class, but those who are responsible for denying it to her, and she herself, should understand clearly the dangers to which she is exposed by the dark age laws which force her into the hands of the abortionist.

Advocates of scientific Birth Control are sometimes met with the absurd statement that such methods are injurious to the health of the woman. It is even asserted that they cause cancer and other disease and that they bring about sterility.

As applied to scientific Birth Control, these statements are both false and silly. In the light of the best authoritative information of the day, it can be unequivocally set down that modern Birth Control methods, properly employed, are not only not injurious but are often positively beneficial to the woman's health. The contrary is maintained for the most part by those who are mentally honest but uninformed or by such as are altogether prejudiced.

The clergy, bound to its theological dogmas is usually opposed to Birth Control methods and is only too ready to accept any bald statement leveled against them. A few physicians who are uninformed as to modern means of Birth Control, still incline to the opinion that they are injurious, but these physicians have in mind the earlier, cruder means of preventing conception.

Some of the persons who maintain that preventative measures are injurious are so ignorant of the whole subject that they in opposing abortion call it Birth Control. Still others believe that harmful drugs are given internally as contraceptives. They, of course, confuse abortives with the means of preventing conception. Anyone who knows anything about either Birth Control or abortion knows that scientific Birth Control methods would do away with abortions which occur in appalling numbers in America every year.

(To Be Continued.)

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Copyright 2003. Margaret Sanger Project