The Strange World of Margaret Sanger’s Birth Control Review: Part I

About 25 years ago, I bought a complete set of Margaret Sanger’s journal The Birth Control Review and ambitiously set out to read every one of its 5,631 pages.  The strange experience left me just a little uncertain about what is real and what is not.  Sanger’s world has that effect on a person, because it is so completely different from the one we are accustomed to.

Sanger associated with racists and anti-Semites, people who despised everyone who was not a Nordic god or goddess, and those who demanded coercive eugenics programs to eliminate “lesser” humans.  The whole bunch, of course, participated in continuous vicious attacks on the Catholic Church.

Most pro-lifers have a vague feeling that Margaret Sanger, the founder of the American Birth Control League (later Planned Parenthood), is somehow “bad,” but they really have no idea.  The malignant influence of Sanger and similar thinkers not only has ruined the West to the point that it is dying, but seems Hell-bent on corrupting the rest of the world as well.

Margaret Sanger and Eugenics

Breed, little mothers,

With the tired backs and the tired hands,

Breed for the owners of mills and the owners of mines,

Breed a race of danger‑haunted men,

A race of toiling, sweating, miserable men,

Breed, little mothers,

Breed for the owners of mills and the owners of mines,

Breed, breed, breed!

Birth Control Review, April 1930.[i]

Margaret Sanger’s journal was primarily devoted to the legalization and spread of voluntary birth control.  However, the main theme running through The Birth Control Review was eugenics, thus the masthead “Birth Control:  To Create a Race of Thoroughbreds.”

The pseudo-science of eugenics was taken very seriously in the first half of the twentieth century and was taught in hundreds of colleges and universities using scores of textbooks written by distinguished scholars.  A.P. Pilloy, writing in the BCR, describes both negative and positive eugenics:  “Broadly speaking, the aims of eugenics are two:  To prevent the unfit from leaving any descendants, and to encourage the multiplication of the more fit and useful citizens.”[ii]

The Birth Control Review frequently highlighted the mission of its parent organization:  “The American Birth Control League.  Its Aim:  To promote eugenic birth selection throughout the United States so that there may be more well‑born and fewer ill‑born children ― a stronger, healthier and more intelligent race.”[iii]

Margaret Sanger neatly summarized the intimate relationship between the eugenics and birth control movements:

Before eugenists and others who are laboring for racial betterment can succeed, they must first clear the way for Birth Control.  Like the advocates of Birth Control, the eugenists, for instance, are seeking to assist the race toward the elimination of the unfit. … Birth control of itself, by freeing the reproductive instinct from its present chains, will make a better race … Eugenics without birth control seems to us a house built upon the sands.  It is at the mercy of the rising stream of the unfit.[iv]

Some of the writers for The Birth Control Review waxed positively poetic on this theme.  One said, “Voluntary control of pregnancy and childbirth is a great torch on one side of the gateway through which intelligent humanity is moving toward a civilization based on human quality . . . On the other side of that gateway stands the torch lighted by Eugenics.”[v]  Another enthused that the combined forces of birth control and eugenics would “Speed the day when woman shall be free!  Then, too, shall man be free and they together, emancipated from the degrading ignorance and superstition of the past, shall walk the highlands of vision, mate in perfect love, and people the earth with a race of gods.”[vi]

Sanger followed eugenic reasoning to its logical conclusion ― that charity is “dysgenic,” leading to a degradation of the human race.  She said that “We are now in a state where our charities, our compensation acts, our pensions, hospitals, and even our drainage and sanitary equipment all tend to keep alive the sickly and the weak, who are allowed to propagate and in turn produce a race of degenerates.”[vii]  One BCR advertisement proclaimed, “Giving to charities merely perpetuates the evil ― Birth Control means prevention!”[viii]  And Edward East proclaimed that “Well‑intentioned philanthropy and social service is nothing but a brutal gesture to posterity.”[ix]

As Sanger saw it, the fundamental source of problems in society was that

[Woman’s] instincts are fundamentally creative, not destructive.  But her sex‑bondage has made her the dumb instrument of the monster she detests.  For centuries she has populated the earth in ignorance and without restraint, in vast numbers and with staggering rapidity.  She has become not the mother of a nobler race, but a mere breeding machine grinding out a humanity which fills insane asylums, almshouses and sweat shops, and provides cannon fodder that tyrants may rise to power on the sacrifice of her offspring.[x]

Of course, then as now, if the lowly do not immediately embrace the Utopian plans of the elite, they must be whipped into line by greater and greater degrees of coercive pressure.  Sanger herself said, “Possibly drastic and Spartan methods may be forced upon society if it continues complacently to encourage the chance and chaotic breeding that has resulted from our stupidly cruel sentimentalism.”[xi] She also said, “To meet this problem [of dysgenics] as a great scientist has recently pointed out, we need not more of the fit, but fewer of the unfit.  The propagation of the degenerate, the imbecile, the feeble‑minded, should be prevented.”[xii]

The doctors who wrote for The Birth Control Review openly advocated what they called a “medical utopia with birth control.”  J. Walter Carr, M.D. wrote that “The community would have to take suitable precautions in self defense and might decree that all adolescents should be examined at puberty and steps taken to sterilize those who could not reasonably be expected to beget healthy children.”[xvi]  Another physician, Anna Blount, wrote:

There they are, a motley group, from the gay, light‑hearted moron, who cannot make an intelligent plan, even to do mischief; to the doddering idiot, the crafty paranoiac, the wretched epileptic, the moral imbecile, the chronic criminal with hereditary taint, and even the village ne’er‑do‑well.  What do they cost us, in wealth, in labor and in misery?  They must be eliminated. Eugenics makes birth control imperative. … But whatever the means this stream of human waste must be deflected from the melting‑pot. … Godspeed the day when the unwilling mother, with her weak, puny body, her sad, anemic, unlovely face, and her dependent whine, will be no more.  In that day, we shall see a race of American thoroughbreds, if not the superman.[xvii]

This loathing of the less fortunate saturates the pages of The Birth Control Review.  Frequent contributor George Kilpatrick wrote that

Unsentimental and rigid examination revealed him [“the moron”] to be so inadequate and incapable that he was worthless even for cannon fodder.  Mentally meager, culturally nothing, socially as selfish as a shark, sexually as eager as a rabbit, careless as a crow and prolific as a rat, the moron now in astonishing numbers confronts society as a grinning, scoffing brute in boots ― and in full possession of sovereign political rights. … He breeds with Biblical abandon, and is not discouraged by the religious in his industrious reproduction of his personally and socially worthless self.[xviii]

What a contrast to the attitude of St. Lawrence, who said of the blind, maimed and leprous, “These are the treasures of the Church!”

Of course, then as now, Sanger’s opponents were smeared with every vicious label the writers for The Birth Control Review could muster, including “enemies of humanity” and “savage traitors.”[xix]

Margaret Sanger’s Connection to Nazis

One of the most enthusiastic supporters of eugenics in the pages of The Birth Control Review was Professor Doktor Ernst Rudin, Adolf Hitler’s Director of Genetic Sterilization and founder of the Nazi Gesellschaft fur Rassenhygiene [Society for Racial Hygiene].[xiii]  In fact, Rudin’s boss, Adolf Hitler, avidly read American eugenics journals and developed his ideas of an Aryan “master race” from their writers.[xiv]

Like the Nazis, writers for The Birth Control Review advocated positive eugenics.  C.C. Little said, “The eugenist is very clear on the two facts which have been given you this morning:  That the production of the unfit should be discouraged or stopped, and that the production of the fit should be encouraged and possibly forced.”[xv]  This was the first mention in modern times of an idea that evolved within a decade into the Nazi’s grotesque Lebensborn program, which bred the “highest-quality” Aryan men and women like cattle.

Hatred of the Catholic Church

The most common themes of Margaret Sanger’s Birth Control Review (BCR) were eugenics and contraception, with hatred of the Catholic Church running a close third.

Planned Parenthood’s loathing of the Catholic Church is nearly a century old, and springs mostly from its realization that the Church is its primary opponent.

As one editorial in The Birth Control Review revealed, “Our experience of the last ten years of constant fighting has been that of all the reactionary groups in the country the Roman Catholic Church is the most politically pernicious and menacing to any progressive movement.”[xx]  Another writer asserted, “Religion, in its organized forms, is the arch enemy of the birth control movement throughout the world. … That they are out of touch with current opinion and modern thought, seldom if ever occurs to them, as they wave their venerable superstitions in our faces.”[xxi]  Margaret Sanger Herself said, “Today the chief warfare against Birth Control is waged by the Roman Catholic clergy and their allies.”[xxii]  She recounted, “Very early in childhood I associated large families with poverty, toil, unemployment, drunkenness, cruelty, quarreling, fighting, debts, jail ― and the Catholic Church.”[xxiii]

Then, as now, the people who demanded tolerance for their own views accused the Catholic Church of “fiendish cruelty,”[xxiv] forcing women to “choose between perpetual adoration and perpetual pregnancy,”[xxv] plotting to “apply the thumb‑screw and the rack to all those who believe in a woman’s right to practice voluntary motherhood,”[xxvi] and that the Church demanded that “women shall be bent and broken on the torture rack of ignorance.”[xxvii]

Frequent BCR contributor and science fiction writer H.G. Wells raved, “Rome is the source and center of Fascism … Why do we not bomb Rome?  Why do we allow these open and declared antagonists of democratic freedom to entertain their Shinto allies and organize a pseudo-Catholic destruction of democratic freedom?”[xxviii]

Such nonsense was warmly welcomed in the pages of The Birth Control Review not once or twice, but hundreds of times.

Many of these statements were simply the result of profound and blinding ignorance, which allowed people to make blanket statements that made no historical sense.  For instance, one doctor alleged, “All religions have always considered woman as a breeding machine and nothing else.”[xxix]

Conspiracies Galore

The anti-Catholics who wrote for The Birth Control Review perceived the Catholic Church as the root of all their troubles, and feared a Papist conspiracy lurking around every corner.  They were every bit as paranoid then as the “pro-choicers” are now.

One writer claimed that the Church wanted to rule the world by making everyone live by Catholic teachings (sound familiar)?[xxx]  Another hoped that the Church’s “dastardly attempt to destroy our liberties will be failed,” and complained that She was trying to “deprive Americans of the right of free speech and the free discussion of their laws.”[xxxi]  George Hallett was convinced that Church leaders “have most of the legislators enslaved.”[xxxii]  Finally, Margaret Sanger griped that “the influence of the Roman Catholic Church was seen everywhere … the Church apparently dominates American courts of justice and political life today.”[xxxiii]

One writer for The Birth Control Review wrote, “The Catholics are directing our legislators to act according to their will.  We have all been troubled by the fear that this Catholic threat to our free institutions would materialize if Catholics were given positions of power in our government …”[xxxiv]

Imagine the reaction if the word “Jew” appeared in the above quote instead of “Catholic.”  But somehow, such anti-Catholic bigotry seems perfectly acceptable to Planned Parenthood.

Frequent contributor Norman Himes claimed that the Pope ran Massachusetts and that “we shall soon have the iron heel of Romanism upon our throats even as it treads upon the freedom of Italian citizens today.”[xxxv]  Himes also believed that Catholic “stock” was inferior to that of Unitarians, Universalists and Freethinkers,[xxxvi] and that all rights (including the right to life) are bestowed by the State and can be revoked at any time.[xxxvii]

Of course, the Catholic Church was attacked by Protestant denominations that had surrendered in the fight against birth control.  One submission from the magazine The Protestant said that “… It is limitation of the birth rate, and not the means by which the limitation is accomplished, that the Papacy is fighting.  Its demand is for large families and large Roman Catholic voting populations.  It is the fact, not the methods, of birth control that angers it.”[xxxviii]

There were charlatans and turncoats then as there are now.  One minister claimed that birth control was “good religion.”[xxxix]  Another alleged that “The eugenic ideal may become a distinct aid to Jesus’ dream of His kingdom on earth, and may well be integrated as a general religious concept.”[xl]

Here We Go Again

One of the worst afflictions of the Church over the past century is failed priests who soothed their own guilty consciences by attacking the Church.  Former priest L.H. Lehmann wrote articles that are almost identical to those that appear in Catholics for [a Free] Choice literature today;

At the bottom of the Papacy’s attitude towards sex, as in its attitude towards everything else in the domestic and public life of men and women, is its unceasing reach after supreme control of the bodies and souls of all men. …  Although universal power and dominion be foreign to the mind of Christ, history is writ large with the record of shame brought upon the fair name of Christianity by this unceasing reach of the Roman Church after undisputed dominion over all men and nations.[xli]

Writers for The Birth Control Review used exactly the arguments that CFFC and other pro-abortion groups use today.  One editorial claimed that “The coercive attitude of the National Catholic Alumni Federation protest is far more serious, threatening as it does the American principle of freedom of opinion and the separation of church and state.  … The real issue centers in the Catholic disregard of the principle of freedom of conscience upon which the country was, supposedly, founded.”[xlii]  Another charged that “Instead of separation of church and state with equal rights for all religious denominations, they are asking that the religious tenets of one church shall be by law binding on all the men and women of America. … Let the Catholic Church guide its own people, but let it not dominate the lives of those who are not in its fold.”[xliii]  Another editorial proclaimed that “The Roman Catholics say that Birth Control is immoral.  We claim that for us Birth Control is of high moral value.  We do not ask to constrain their consciences, let them cease to attempt to constrain ours.”[xliv]

The Culture of Death thinks that “separation of Church and state” really means “Where the state advances, the Church must retreat.”  And so, we have constant efforts by pro-abortion groups to force Catholic hospitals and doctors to perform abortions and sterilizations and distribute contraceptives.

What Will Replace Religion?

One book review in The Birth Control Review said that “The main argument is a simple one, that many features of orthodox religion in themselves are bad and that the old religious culture pattern is hopelessly inconsistent with modern science and with a progressively secularized culture.  Crush the infamous thing and away with the rubbish.”[xlv]

If this “infamous thing” is to become “rubbish,” what will replace it?  Francis B. Summer says that “Science now aims at nothing less than the establishment of a new religion, without priest or dogma, the sole aim of which is the happiness and ennoblement of humanity on earth, and Neo‑Malthusianism, though not the whole, is the chief factor in that religion.”[xlvi]  Another writer called science “the only possible savior of mankind.”[xlvii]

Science as savior hasn’t done too well for itself, has it?

So — Who Wins in the End?

Although the editors of The Birth Control Review preferred articles submitted by dissenting “Catholics,” they were kind enough to occasionally allow authentic Catholic writers to submit opinion pieces.  Seen from a vantage point nearly a century later, these articles are eerily prophetic.  For example, Father Fulton Sheen commented on the Federal Council of Churches capitulation on birth control, writing, “Since a week ago last Saturday we can no longer expect them to defend the law of God.  These sects will work out the very logic of their ways and in fifty or one hundred years there will be only the Church and paganism.  We will be left to fight the battle alone ― and we will.”[xlviii]

Sheen was absolutely correct.  Since 1960, the membership of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States has risen 43%, and the memberships of all pro-life churches has increased by 38%.  Meanwhile, the combined membership rolls of pro-abortion churches in the United States have plunged 34%.[xlix]  Most interestingly, those timid and lukewarm churches that have proclaimed that they are “neutral” on abortion have lost 81% of their members since 1960.

 

Read the second part of this article here.

 

Endnotes

[i] Lucia Trent, Children of Fire and Shadow.  Quoted in “The Poetry of Lucia Trent.”  Birth Control Review, Volume XIV, Number 4 (April 1930), page 113.

[ii] A.P. Pillay.  “Eugenical Birth Control for India.”  Birth Control Review, Volume XV, Number 11 (November 1931), page 310.  Or, as Mabel Boyden put it, “It [eugenics] does advocate the improvement of human beings along two lines.  (1) improvement in existing human stocks and faster reproduction of superior stocks, and (2) curtailment as rapidly as possible of inferior stocks” [Mabel G. Boyden.  “A Positive Eugenic Factor.”  Birth Control Review, Volume XVI, Number 2 (February 1932), pages 61 and 62].

[iii] Advertisement in the Birth Control Review, Volume I, Number 1 (New Series, October 1933), page 8.  Another advertisement in this vein said that “THE AMERICAN BIRTH CONTROL LEAGUE.  Its Aim:  To promote eugenic birth selection throughout the United States so that there may be more well‑born and fewer ill‑born children ― a stronger, healthier, more intelligent race … and in order that those who are physically and mentally unsound may use birth control to have fewer or no children” [Membership advertisement for the American Birth Control League.  Birth Control Review, Volume XVI, Number 12 (December 1932), page 319].

[iv] Margaret Sanger.  “Birth Control and Racial Betterment.”  Birth Control Review, Volume III, Number 2 (February 1919), pages 11 and 12.

[v] Dr. C. C. Little in “Man, the Forgotten.”  Birth Control Review, Volume IV, Number 3 (New Series, December 1936), page 8.  Henry Pratt Fairchild also said that “The integration of the birth control and eugenic interests, and the affiliation of all scientific agencies working for the establishment of these two ideals.  Birth control and eugenics are by nature closely related, and neither one can attain its complete fulfillment, or render its maximum service to society, without the other” [Henry Pratt Fairchild.  “Programs and Wishes for 1933.”  Birth Control Review, Volume XVII, Number 1 (January 1933), page 5].

[vi] Eugene V. Debs.  “Freedom Is The Goal.”  Birth Control Review, Volume II, Number 5 (May 1918), page 7.

[vii] Margaret Sanger.  “Birth Control and Women’s Health.”  Birth Control Review, Volume I, Number 12 (December 1917), page 7.

[viii] Advertisement for the American Birth Control League in the Birth Control Review, Volume VIII, Number 9 (September 1924), page 269.  Other examples of this condemnation of charity:  (1)  “Such would involve a redistribution of funds now wasted upon the degenerate elements through the channel of sentimental charity which in reality results in encouraging propagation among the least desirable elements” [John C. Duvall.  “The Purpose of Eugenics.”  Birth Control Review, Volume VIII, Number 12 (December 1924), pages 344, 345 and 366]; (2)  “If the millions upon millions of dollars which are now expended in the care and maintenance of those who in all kindness should never have been brought into this world were converted to a system of bonuses to unfit parents, paying them to refrain from further parenthood, their procreative faculties, this would not only be a profitable investment, but the salvation of American civilization” [Margaret Sanger.  “Address of Welcome to the Sixth International Neo‑Malthusian & Birth Control Conference.”  Birth Control Review, Volume IX, Number 4 (April 1925), pages 99 and 100].

[ix] Edward M. East.  Birth Control Review, Volume XIV, Number 4 (April 1930), page 109.

[x] Margaret Sanger.  “Woman and War.”  Birth Control Review, Volume I, Number 6 (June 1917), page 5.

[xi] Margaret Sanger.  “The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda.”  Birth Control Review, Volume V, Number 10 (October 1921), page 5.

[xii] ―  Margaret Sanger.  Birth Control ― Past, Present and Future.”  Birth Control Review Volume V, Number 8 (August 1921), page 19.

[xiii] Prof. Dr. Ernst RudinEugenic Sterilization: An Urgent Need.”  Birth Control Review, Volume XVII, Number 4 (April 1933), pages 102 to 104.

[xiv] See Chapter 5 of The Facts of Life, “The Holocaust Analogy to Abortion.”  For an electronic copy of this document, e-mail Brian Clowes at bclowes@hli.org.

[xv] C.C. Little, D. Sc.  “Unnatural Selection and its Resulting Obligations.”  Birth Control Review, Volume X, Number 8 (August 1926), page 243.

[xvi] J. Walter Carr, M.D.  “A Medical Utopia with Birth Control.”  Birth Control Review, Volume VII, Number 8 (August 1923), pages 205 and 206.

[xvii] Anna E. Blount, M.D.  “Large Families and Human Waste.”  Birth Control Review, Volume II, Number 9 (September 1918), page 3; Anna E. Blount, M.D.  “Eugenics in Relation to Birth Control.”  Birth Control Review, Volume II, Number 1 (January 1918), page 7.

[xviii] George R. Kirkpatrick.  “Salvation from the Moron.”  Birth Control Review, Volume XIII, Number 1 (October 1929), page 290.  Another example of this vicious condemnation of the poor is given in a book review:  “Without gloves he mercilessly flays the marriage‑license bureau “where, for a few pieces of silver, two lunatics or two lepers, the mentally or physically diseased can purchase the sanction of society and the authority of the State to go forth and breed diseased mongrel humans creatures like themselves. … every defective, every degenerate, every vicious criminal, every repulsive wreck of the sordid scramble of life, is naught but a monument to the stupidity of society” [Review for Robert Edwin Pride’s book The Polluted StreamBirth Control Review, Volume XV, Number 1 (January 1931), page 31].  And again:  “First of all, the hordes of degenerates, diseased, idiotic, feeble‑minded, alcoholic, and vicious criminals must be wiped out” [G. Hardy.  “Eugenics and Child Culture.”  Birth Control Review, Volume II, Number 9 (September 1918), page 18].

[xix] Letter by John F. Kendrick of Chicago, Illinois.  Birth Control Review, Volume XVI, Number 1 (January 1932), page 31.

[xx] “Editorial.”  Birth Control Review, Volume VIII, Number 8 (August 1924), pages 219 and 220.

[xxi] Henry Chellew.  “Birth Control in Britain.”  Birth Control Review, Volume XVI, Number 11 (November 1932), pages 273 and 274.

[xxii] Margaret Sanger.  “The Fight against Birth Control.”  Birth Control Review, Volume VIII, Number 9 (September 1924), pages 245 to 248.

[xxiii] Frank H. Hankin.  Review of Margaret Sanger’s book My Fight for Birth ControlBirth Control Review, Volume XV, Number 11 (November 1931), pages 322 and 323.

[xxiv] “To be killed suddenly and then eaten, which was the fate of the Aztecs’ victims, is a far less degree of suffering than is inflicted upon a child born in miserable surroundings and tainted with venereal disease.  Yet it is the greater suffering which is deliberately inflicted by Bishops and politicians in the name of morality.  If they had even the smallest spark of love or pity for children they could not adhere to a moral code involving this fiendish cruelty” [Hornell Hart and Malcolm H. Bissell.  “Whither Are We Going?”  Birth Control Review, Volume IX, Number 10 (October 1925), pages 292 to 294].

[xxv] “In Ireland there is so little sense of compromise that a girl has to choose between perpetual adoration and perpetual pregnancy.  They struggle and cry for food, for air, for the right to develop; and our civilization at present has neither the courage to kill them outright quickly, cleanly, and painlessly, nor the heart and courage and ability to give them what they need” [Keikichi Ishimoto.  “Japan and America.”  Birth Control Review, Volume IX, Number 10 (October 1925), page 289].

[xxvi] “The Catholic Church is the bigoted, relentless enemy of birth control.  It makes no bones about its stand.  This [birth control] movement threatens its hold upon the poor and the ignorant, and probably only the existence of restraining laws prevents it from applying the thumb‑screw and the rack to all those who believe in woman’s right to practice voluntary motherhood.  But, since the methods of the Inquisition are out of date, it would compromise by clapping us all into jail. … In the long run, reason will inevitably triumph over darkness and superstition.  Even the Catholic Church will yield to the force of public opinion” [Editorial Comment.  Birth Control Review, Volume II, Number 6 (June 1918), page 16].

[xxvii] “Christians the world over ― whether they take that name or not ― are refusing to enlist in the ranks of a God who demands that women shall be bent and broken on the torture rack of ignorance, or who encourages the animal breeding of unwanted and uncared‑for children. … When the younger Catholics of the present generation reach positions of authority in the church, progress towards a common goal will be even swifter.  The official Church, deep‑dyed in Italian nationalism, may not care to admit a change in attitude” [Editorial by C.C. Little, Director of the Roscoe B. Jackson Memorial Laboratory, Bar Harbor, Maine.  Birth Control Review, Volume XVII, Number 7 (July 1933), page 169].

[xxviii] H.G. Wells.  Crux Ansata:  An Indictment of the Roman Catholic Church (reprinted by Prometheus Press, 1991, page 1).

[xxix] B. Liber, M.D., Ph.D.  “The Neo‑Malthusian Idea.”  Birth Control Review, Volume III, Number 7 (July 1919), pages 6 and 7.

[xxx] “The church aims to be a world‑wide power essaying through the legislatures of many countries to embody the ideas of the hierarchy at Rome in laws governing the lives of Catholic and non‑Catholic alike.  The constitutional rights of non‑Catholic Americans are nothing to it and the carrying out of the commands of Roman Catholic ecclesiastics takes precedence of considerations of patriotism” [“Editorial.”  Birth Control Review, Volume X, Number 4 (April 1926), page 113].

[xxxi] “… again it is asserted that it is the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, exercised through the Knights of Columbus, that is inspiring politicians to trample on the Constitution of the United States, and to deprive Americans of the right of free speech and the free discussion of their laws … But liberty‑loving Americans are rallying to our aid, and before our readers receive their Reviews we hope that the dastardly attempt to destroy our liberties will be foiled …” [“The World We Live In.”  Birth Control Review, Volume VIII, Number 3 (March 1924), page 67].

[xxxii] “There are such [Catholic] minorities in nearly every district, and because they are ready to translate their opposition to birth control into votes while the favorable majority is politically indifferent, they have most of the legislators enslaved” [George Hallett.  “What Blocks Birth Control Legislation?  A Suggested Way Out.”  Birth Control Review, Volume XV, Number 10 (October 1931), page 292].

[xxxiii] Margaret Sanger.  “Clinics, Courts, and Jails.”  Birth Control Review, Volume II, Number 4 (April 1918), page 4.

[xxxiv] The actual quote from The Birth Control Review is:  “The long arm of the Catholic Church is reaching into our legislative halls and is directing our legislators to act according to its will.  We have all been troubled by the fear that this Catholic threat to our free institutions would materialize if Catholics were given positions of power in our government, but never before in so short a time have events developed in such irrefutable sequence as in this case of opposition to the Doctors’ [birth control] Bill” [Blanche Ames Ames.  “A Grave and Present Danger.”  Birth Control Review, Volume XV, Number 4 (April 1931), page 110].

[xxxv] “The [Massachusetts] legislative committee on public health permitted itself recently to be bamboozled on the merits of conception control by the most tumultuous flood of Irish oratory and Catholic demagoguery that has ever been heard on Beacon Hill since organized government began in Massachusetts.  Anyone who doubts whether the Pope or the people run Massachusetts should have been at the hearing before the Public Health Committee on February 18th when more than one thousand people, mostly Catholics or representatives of Catholic organizations, jammed Gardner Auditorium, to confuse, cajole, and browbeat the committee into killing the birth control bill … With a rising Catholic vote, with the irresponsible and less intelligent entering into a cradle competition with the responsible and thoughtful, one wonders how long it will be before Catholicism will be dominant in this country ― with all that implies for the future decadence of freedom and intellectual honesty … One proposition seems to me valid:  Unless the forces of liberalism can organize themselves sufficiently to curb the demagoguery, intimidation, misrepresentation, and open threats of the Catholic opposition we shall soon have the iron heel of Romanism upon our throats even as it treads upon the freedom of Italian citizens today” [Norman E. Himes.  “Does a Minority Rule Massachusetts?:  The Senate Hearing.”  Birth Control Review, Volume XV, Number 4 (April 1931), pages 108 and 109].

[xxxvi] Norman E. Himes.  Medical History of Contraception [Baltimore: Schocker paperback edition], 1970, page 413.  The Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) reprinted this book in 1965 with an introduction by Alan Guttmacher, M.D.  The entire quote was “Are Catholic stocks in the United States, taken as a whole, genetically inferior to such no-Catholic libertarian stocks as Unitarians and Universalists, Ethical Culturists, Freethinkers?  Inferior to non-Catholic stocks in general?  No one really knows.  One is entitled to his hunches, however, and my guess is that the answer will someday be made in the affirmative … and if the supposed differentials in net productivity are also genuine, the situation is anti-social, perhaps gravely so.”

[xxxvii] “All the rights we have are those granted to us by society.  Certainly there is no natural right to spawn defective children who must be supported by others through taxation or charity.  The crisis in this instance is the enormous expense to the state of the care of the defective classes and the contamination of the biological stock which results from their reproduction. … While sterilization is no substitute for segregation, it is also true that segregation is no substitute for sterilization. They must go hand in hand.
“Ever since the rise of the Nazi regime in Germany an objection that has frequently been raised against eugenical sterilization is that a voluntary sterilization program may turn into a compulsory one. Some thoughtful people sincerely fear this. But the history of eugenical sterilization in the United States and in other democratic countries offers little warrant for the contention. This is the old fallacy of ultimate danger; that if we take step A, it would lead to step B; that if we take step B. it may lead to step C, and so forth without end. The evidence now available shows that even in Nazi Germany, where there is a great deal of compulsion that would not be tolerated by citizens who believe in democracy, there has been as yet no attempt to sterilize any special racial group …
“Most of the objections to eugenical sterilization are based upon unfounded fears, insufficient knowledge, or faulty reasoning. None of the objections has substantial merit. They are comparable to the arguments made ten years ago against birth control, even by some supposedly will-informed individuals, that birth-control devices caused sterility, necessarily led to immorality, would cause ‘race suicide,’ were unreliable, etc.
“… we do not need the defective classes. They are already an excessive burden upon the State. A few special students of the problem even believe that our society is undergoing a “moronization” process; that the intelligence level of the American people is declining because the gifted have few children and the stupid many … Probably it will take society a span of years to learn how to use it [eugenic sterilization] properly as a weapon for its own improvement …” [Norman E. Hines, Ph.D. Practical Birth-Control Methods [New York City: Viking Press], 1946 [NOTE:  Notice the author’s representation and summation of classic eugenicist theories, which, despite their antique quaintness, are still deadly poisonous to this day; that all rights are bestowed by the State alone, even to the granting (or withholding) of the right to life to handicapped persons; that “defectives” are expensive and “contaminate the biological stock,” and therefore society does not need “the defective classes;” that the slippery slope theory (here called the “ultimate danger fallacy”) has no merit, and, in fact, all anti-eugenicist arguments are baseless and originate from ignorance; and that birth control methods are reliable, do not cause physical damage, do not lead to immorality, and may one day be compulsory].

[xxxviii] The Protestant, August 1931, quoted in “In the Magazines:  Autocrats Urge High Birth Rates.”  Birth Control Review, Volume XV, Number 9 (September 1931), page 269.

[xxxix] “Be honest, know the truth and be free.  Speak out, let no sensitive pride hold you back.  Let no self‑appointed ecclesiastic deter you.  Every good thing is for you to enjoy.  Soon, let us hope, the required information will be legally given to all who ask for it.  Birth Control has within it possibilities for happiness, more abundant life and untold blessings for this old world.  This is good religion” [Statement of Reverend E.G. Gallagher, Minister of the First Congregational Church, Waseca, Minnesota.  Birth Control Review, Volume XIV, Number 5 (May 1930), page 139].

[xl] W.W. Whitehouse.  “A New Frontier in Religion.”  Birth Control Review, Volume XVI, Number 12 (December 1932), page 293.

[xli] Ex‑priest L.H. Lehmann.  “Papal Contradictions.”  Birth Control Review, Volume XVI, Number 12 (December 1932), pages 295 to 297.

[xlii] “Editorial.”  Birth Control Review, Volume XVI, Number 11 (November 1932), page 260.

[xliii] “Editorial.”  Birth Control Review, Volume XV, Number 5 (May 1931), page 133.

[xliv] “Editorial.”  Birth Control Review, Volume XII, Number 6 (June 1928), page 170.

[xlv] Clifford Kirkpatrick’s review of Harry Elmer Barnes’ book The Twilight of ChristianityBirth Control Review, Volume XIV, Number 12 (December 1930), pages 356 and 357.

[xlvi] Francis B. Sumner.  “Birth Control and “Positive Eugenics.””  Birth Control Review, Volume IX, Number 7 (July 1925), page 214.

[xlvii] “Science, the only possible savior of mankind, must put it in the power of woman to decide for herself whether she will or will not become a mother” [Robert G. Ingersoll, quoted in George Bedborough’s review of George Macdonald’s book Fifty Years of FreethoughtBirth Control Review, Volume XV, Number 12 (December 1931), page 358].

[xlviii] Father Fulton J. Sheen, Catholic University of America.  “Comments ….. and Comments on the Report of The Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America.”  Birth Control Review, Volume XV, Number 5 (May 1931), page 143.

[xlix] For calculations and references, e-mail Brian Clowes at bclowes@hli.org and ask for Excel spreadsheet F-20-06.XLS, “Membership in Major Pro-Life, Pro-Abortion and  “Neutral” Churches in the United States, 1960-2013.

One thought on “The Strange World of Margaret Sanger’s Birth Control Review: Part I

  1. Perhaps one could argue that once a society politicizes and economizes science, the result is laissez-faire democracy in its worst individualistic practice, i.e. autocracy.
    In an autocratic society the earth’s resources are monopolized by the powerful, and the weak are left to gather the crumbs which fall off the eugenics lord!

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