[Birth Control, 1946]




Britannica Book of the Year, (1947), pp. 119-20.


For other articles in the Britannica Book of the Year series, see "Birth Control," 1947-1958 see Margaret Sanger Papers Microfilm Edition: Collected Documents Series: 1947; 1949; 1950; 1951;1952; 1953; 1955; 1956; 1957; 1958.


Orr, John Boyd
International Congress on Population in Relation to World



Birth Control

The first comprehensive program on research in human reproduction was bugun during 1948. Nine studies were started on factors governing fertility control and problems of infertility in as many institutions throughout the country. They were recommeded by the National Research council's Committee on Human Reproduction to the board of the National Committee on Maternal Health; funds were raised mainly by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, one of the three collaborating organizations. The dearth of scientific work in fertility control resulted in numerous applications for study of fields other than conception control.


The International Congress on Population and World Resources in Relation to the Family, held in Cheltenham, England, was an indication of the rising interest among scientists and the lay public in world population problems. Sir John Orr, former director of the World Food and Agricultural organization told the congress, "If we cannot solve the problem of world resources in this century, we are heading for the greatest catastrophe in history. . . hungry people do not die quietly; and why should they?" Representatives from more than 20 countries participated. They were leaders in three fields: scientific and social inquiry, biological and medical research, and organizational activity in the promotion of planned parenthood. A provisional international committee was established with headquarters in London. Its purpose was "to promote research and education for the furthering of human welfare through planned parenthood and progressive sex education." Members were the national Planned Parenthood organizations of the Great Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United States, the only four nations where such agencies existed.

Magazine Poll.--

A poll of more than 3,000,000 women was conducted by the Woman's Home Companion. Three-fifths favored making birth-control information available to all adults, and 97% of those polled approved birth control measures for use by married women.

Committee on Clinic Studies.--

A demonstration to evaluate the practical efficiency of simple existing contraceptive methods was developed in order to broaden the use of conception control in public health. The need for such as study was indicated by the small percentage (approximately 5%) of patients attending pre- and postnatal public health clinics receiving conception-control information.

It was found after an investigation by L. E. Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Georgia and Alabama that staffs were too overworked to give time to fitting and instructing patients. Many patients did not know this service was available, since neither the public health nurse nor health educator mentioned or encouraged it.

A committee on clinic studies was appointed by the federation's Medical Executive committee. It was given the support of private physicians who agreed on the need to encourage practical application of planned parenthood in public health.

Massachusetts Birth-Control Referendum.--

A birth-control referendum on the question of allowing physicians to prescribe contraceptives to married women whose health or life, in the judgement of the physician, required it, was defeated by 200,000 votes in the 1948 Massachusetts election.

The measure, which aimed to place contraceptive advice in the hands of the medical profession, was endorsed by a majority of resident members of the Massachusetts Medical society and by more than 1,000 Protestant and Jewish clergymen. Four thousand volunteers in 300 local communities campaigned to repeal the state law.


The Planned Parenthood federation was in 1948 the national agency and clearinghouse for 15 state leagues and 166 local committees. The total number of birth-control clinics stood at 557. These services were in 242 public health clinics, 62 hospital clinics, 210 extramural clinics and 43 referral services. Of the 58 fertility clinics in the U. S. listed with the federation, 13 were under Planned Parenthood direction.