November 26, 2013
FYS Paper 3
The Birth Control Movement of the 1960s, led by Margaret Sanger, influenced the way that birth control is looked at today by proving that the pill is a source of population control in our society. According to the Medical Dictionary, “Birth control is the use of any practices, methods, or devices to prevent pregnancy from occurring in a sexually active woman. Also referred to as family planning, pregnancy prevention, fertility control, or contraception; birth control methods are designed either to prevent fertilization of an egg or implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus.” Margaret Sanger believed that universal access to birth control would reduce abortion, decrease poverty, and strengthen families. She helped women gain the right to decide when or whether to have children, which was a struggle with not having protection against pregnancy, as she realized growing up with ten other children in her family.
Margaret Sanger believed that she could persuade the government to legalize birth control as she clearly expressed her opinion that birth control should be legal. If the pill was legalized, women alone could decide when or if they wanted to have children, instead of having children when they are not prepared or want a child. Also, Sanger argued that this contraceptive could control our population. Cited in the American Experience, "By the end of the fifties, the United States birthrate was overtaking India's," Betty Friedan would write in The Feminine Mystique in 1963. There were many unwanted pregnancies that women either resorted to having an abortion, or had to raise the children while approaching poverty. These reasons influenced why the FDA approved the legalization of birth control in May of 1960, even though almost half a million American women were already taking it for "therapeutic purposes". “Margaret Sanger gained worldwide renown, respect, and admiration for founding the American birth control movement and, later, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, as well as for developing and encouraging family planning efforts throughout the international community.”
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America was the first birth control clinic founded in 1916 by Sanger, her sister, and her friend; but according to the Comstock Law of 1873, what they were doing was illegal. The Comstock Law was “a federal law that made it a crime to sell or distribute materials that could be used for contraception or abortion, to send such materials or information about such materials through the federal mail system, or to import such materials from abroad.” (thefreedictionary.com) According to Philanthropedia, the reason Sanger wanted to open the clinic was because she “witnessed the sickness, misery, and death that result from unwanted pregnancy and illegal abortion. The clinic she opened provided contraceptive advice to poor, immigrant women, some of whom line up hours before the...