Margaret Sanger, "Stop Perpetuating The Unfit by a National Policy on Limitation of Families," 28 Dec 1921.
Published Article. Source: New York American, Dec. 28, 1921, 9. , Margaret Sanger Microfilm C16:167. .
This article was part of a "discussion" aroused by the November 1921 case of Anna Reynolds Cassidente, a Denver woman, who was brought before Juvenile Court because her five children were undernourished and her house was dirty. The judge suggested that rather than take the existing children away, Mrs. Cassidente be sterilized to prevent any more. The judge ruled that both parents had to agree to the procedure; while her husband, Clyde Cassidente, was amenable, Mrs. Cassidente had refused. A brief editorial note preceded the article, identifying Sanger.
In the case of Mrs. Cassidente, of Denver, one must remember that such cases are to be looked upon as one views a war measure in a great and trying emergency.
Such an operation as that suggested by the doctor is permanent birth control. There are thousands of women who, for serious reasons to health or life, have been compelled to undergo this operation, with results neither harmful nor disastrous to the woman.
But these cases are rare compared to the millions of poor overworked women, mothers all, whose condition does not warrant so strenuous a measure as sterilization but whose lives are made miserable and wretched, because babies come too quickly after each other. There mothers need and desire knowledge of birth control.
Such knowledge does not prevent the coming of children when they are wanted, but it may be put into practice, to the result that a woman may have three or four children, give them care and attend to their health and welfare and bring this number to full maturity as citizens a country may be proud of rearing.
The huge infant mortality rate is a symptom of the disease of an ignorant and forced maternity. Those who strive to reduce the number of deaths of infants, should first remove three factors, the first of which is the crude and harmful evil of resorting to drugs in the early stages of motherhood.
Thousands of women in America spend fabulous sums at drug shops for useless and injurious ingredients which poison the number and injure the infant at its very inception. Women who complain of sickly and weak infants are often reminded of the attempts made at foetecide and regret the harm done only too late.
Such an infant is weakened at the start of life and may have so little power of resistance that it cannot survive early infancy.
The second factor in infant mortality is the birth of infants coming so rapidly one after the other, that the mother has not time to recover her strength for to recuperate from the strain of the last birth, nor to gain strength for the coming of the next.
Such a condition makes it imperative that the mother use up the vitality of the coming child in order to get through herself. In other words, she draws upon the capital of the child unborn, which weakens its resistance for the battle of life after birth.
The third factor is the lack of time and attention and knowledge of the mother to expend on the child, making it a creature of chance, to grow up or not, according to the mercy of neighbors or charitable agencies.
Birth control would save mothers, not only from undergoing the useless agony (year after year) of fruitless pregnancies, but also from the horrible spectacle of countless little coffins made necessary by a forced or involuntary maternity.
There is no magic road to the goal of Birth Control. There is no magic method to be practiced. The methods advanced and taught in Holland in private clinics by doctors and nurses to poor mothers, are strictly individual, suitable not to everyone, but to the special woman concerned.
The woman who has had two children may need different advice from that given to a mother who had given birth to eight or ten children.
The woman who has had good medical care during her pregnancies and childbirth may need far different instruction to that given a woman who has not had that care.
The methods most advised and insuring the greatest amount of safety cannot be used by an unmarried woman. All methods advised, require home conditions, some intelligence and a certain understanding of hygiene.
The parents who desire to limit their families show intelligence and responsibility. They should be encouraged and assisted in every means at the command of science and the state.
Such is the object of the American Birth Control League (104 Fifth avenue, New York City, which aims to arouse interest among the American people to bring to birth a better quality in our race, as well as to establish clinics in all thickly populated districts where poor overburdened wretched mothers may be instructed in the methods of birth control.
We need one generation of birth control to weed out the misfits, to breed self-reliant, intelligent, responsible individuals.
Our immigration laws forbid the entrance into this country of paupers, insane, feeble-minded and diseased people from other lands. Why not extend the idea and discourage the bringing to birth these same types within our borders. Let us stop reproducing and perpetuation disease, insanity and ignorance.
Stop these and other evils at their source by a national policy and education of birth control.
Copyright 2003. Margaret Sanger Project