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Legalization Of Birth Control Essay

3146 words - 13 pages

In Canada in the early 20th century birth control was a highly contentious issue. Before 1929 birth control was an obscene, immoral and unnatural topic. It was broached only by the odd feminist or left-wing group. Section 179c (substituted by Section 207 in 1900) of the 1892 Criminal Code made the sale or advertisement of contraceptives an indictable offense up until the Code was amended in 1969. During the years 1930-1936 the mindset of Canadians began to shift toward approval of the use and legalization of contraceptives. This movement originated from middle-class Canadian concerns over population and the economic stability of Canada along with concerns over maternal health. Many women involved in the movement argued women had a right to birth control and the control over their own bodies, this view however was overshadowed by the economic and social arguments presented by the leaders of the movement. Throughout these years there was much opposition to the legalization of birth control. The proponents of birth control were equated in the minds of many with either sexual radicals or reactionary Malthusians. The Roman Catholic Church opposed birth control vehemently because it allowed for the separation of sexuality and procreation. It is argued that the birth control movement stemmed from the Depression in the 1930’s.
Canadian fertility started its decline early in the 19th century. It dropped about 30% between the years of 1851 and 1891. This long term decline in fertility was offset by the number of young, prolific immigrants arriving in Canada seeking a new and better life. Statistics show average Canadian families had 4.1 children for parents who were born in 1871; whereas parents born in 1911 had an average of 2.9 children. At the turn of the century some prominent males assumed that the decline in family size was a direct result of women’s attempt to free themselves from their traditional roles in society. This decline in Canadian fertility occurred prior to any modern form of contraceptive which did not surface until the late 1920’s.
Canada along with other industrialized nations saw many changes during the depression years of 1929-1939. Birth control had been long practiced in Canada however the 1930’s was a turning point in which citizens attempted to gain public acceptance of its use. People in Canada during this time were constantly adjusting to financial insecurity, and unemployment. In fact, thousands of Canadians were put on relief or social assistance during the depression. The birth rate reached an all time low during this interwar fertility slump. This was largely because the possibility of rearing another child in the scarce times of the Depression posed a serious threat to many families of the working class. Through the extension of compulsory education in English Canada the costs of raising children were increasing while simultaneously limiting their ability to contribute financially to their family. Fear...

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