[Comment at the Sixth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference]




Margaret Sanger Papers Microfilm, Library of Congress, LCM 122:148


Sanger made the following remarks during the session on the "Differential Birth Rate" at the Sixth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference in New York City. Papers read at that session include: Francis B. Sumner's"Is Voluntary Birth Control of the Human Population an Idle Dream?" Walter Wilcox, "Decreasing the Birth Rate in the United States," Ellsworth Huntington, "The Effect of Overpopulation on Chinese Character," Malcolm Bissell, "Some Neglected Aspects of the Population Problem," J.O.P. Bland,, "Race Suicide Fallacy," and Binnie Dunlop, "Small Families and Willing Work.". For the text of these papers, see Library of Congress Microfilm LCM 122:105.


Pearl, Raymond



CHAIRMAN PEARL: If there is no further discussion, I would like to ask Mrs. Sanger to say a few words. (Applause)

MRS. SANGER: I would just like to make a point on Prof. Sumner's paper. He spoke of the Catholics. I want to say that our information from our Clinical Research Department shows that as far as the desire to have information to restrict or control the family runs at 33 per cent of the people who come to us are Protestants and 32 per cent Catholics, 31 per cent Jewish. So it seems to me that there is not quite the fear of alarm; that these women have just the same desires, the same economic standards that they want to uphold in the Catholic families as the Jewish and Protestant.

I think as we have our facts there that it will dissolve any theory that the Catholics are going to out-number the others, if they so desire and will restrict their families in the face of opposition and in face of the laws that are here. It seems to me when we get to them the freedom we are trying to get, especially the restrictions out of the way, there will be absolutely no reason why they should not go along even better than they are.

There was also a point raised about the Federal and State Laws. I want to point out that the reason the American Birth Control League has not gone in for Federal Legislation is because of our experience and our knowledge of the facts. The question of practical contraception still is in the almost experimental state and we believe we can get far better results if we confine our work to state restrictions, or rather state legislatures, where we will have the benefit of the doctor or the members of the medical profession in personal contact in giving personal advice to the individual. We believe that the medical profession should give the proper information, and that the average physician would not use the mails to prescribe to a patient. We believe that personal contact and personal instruction is going to give us far better results than the best kind of a book that could be written.

We know both sides. We know pamphlets have been written. There was one out some years ago. I have never felt, even with thousands of them, that they were going to be as effective as the individual instruction to the woman herself. The more we get on with this work in our Research Department, we are positive that is the right attitude.

Many of these women we are trying to reach cannot read at all. We know to follow even the plainest sort of instructions that it would be difficult for her. She comes to us and she is tired, and she is weary, and she can’t understand what she reads, and we can instruct her and examine her, as our physician does, and teach her. It only takes a few minutes for her to learn what to do, while a whole book could be written and she would not know what to do. We contend we are going to get better results by having personal instruction.

There is no question but what the Federal Law needs to be changed. We certainly come up against it when we want scientific information. Still, I think the laws we want changed in the Federal way need to go along consistently with the policy of the American Birth Control League. We think they should be changed at the present for the medical profession.

On the other hand people say, “What are you bothering about the medical profession for when they don’t stand for you?” The principle is the same and we are going to fight for it. We say we are going to make the public clamor at the doors of the medical profession until they take up this work and do it for us. (Applause)