MARGARET SANGER PLEADS FOR BILL BEFORE COMMITTEE
Crowd of 300 Attend Hearing on Proposed Legalizing of Birth Control in Connecticut
The question as to whether or not Connecticut shall legalize the practice of birth control provoked, at a hearing before the Judiciary committee of the general assembly this afternoon, the keenest and most absorbing debate and rough and tumble controversy that the present session has seen in connection with any matter. The hearing on the proposed birth control bill brought to the old Senate chamber, where the Judiciary committee holds its sessions, a crowd estimated at 300 persons, which packed the seats on the floors, the galleries, and the interior window spaces. Most of those present were women.
A discussion by Mrs. Margaret Sanger, introduced as "the champion for birth control in the United States," on the one hand, and Bishop John G. Murray, chancellor of the Catholic diocese of Connecticut, sometimes referred to among scholars as "the pride of Louvian University," on the opposition, developed substantial arguments, which were applauded at intervals by the entire assemblage.
The proposed birth control bill, introduced by Representative Samuel Sisiky, of Enfield, at the request of Attorney Henry F. Fletcher of Enfield, who was the first speaker in behalf of the bill, repeals sections of the general statutes, which prohibits the use of drugs instruments or articles intended to prevent conception, and the dissemination of literature intended to prevent conception.
An informal pool of the Judiciary committee at the clsoe of the hearing indicated it was learned by the Telegram correspondent a probable majority of the committee in favor of some revision of the existing statutes, by which birth control information is forbidden, although the bill sponsored by the American Birth Control League is likely to be unfavorably reported on the ground that some of its provisions are too drastic.
Mrs. Sanger was introduced as the principal speaker in support of this bill, after Mrs. Annie G. Porritt of Hartford, Robert P. Butler, corporation counsel of Hartford, and Attorney Henry F. Fletcher of Enfield, had spoken briefly in favor of the bill. Mrs. Porritt also said she was authorized to introduce the names of Dr. Paul P. Swett, Dr. Henry F. Stoll, and Dr. T. Weston Chester, noted obstetricians of Hartford, in favor of the measure. Dr. Stoll appeared later personally to express his approval of modification of the statutes which would permit the imparting of birth control information, but not to the point of legalizing abortions.
When Mrs. Sanger was introduced, the chamber resounded with applause. She said the question to be settled "is not, shall the use of birth control be permitted, but what kind of birth control shall we use." The idea of birth control has been used all through the history of mankind, she said. "Nature uses the cruelest method of birth control, with pestilence, famine and war, but we don't believe in those methods, nor in infanticide or the abandonment of children. It is a disgrace to our civilization that we permit the enormous waste of women's lives. What we want to do is to bring the subject out of the gutter, where we have put it, to raise it to the plane of science."
Mrs. Sanger called attention to the numerous bills which had been heard by the committee that afternoon, relating to the State's burden of child welfare, and maintaining or protecting children "who ought never to have been born." When we go on doing this, and do not correct the condition that produces it, "we are like the ostrich burying its head in the sand. We don't look the facts in the face," Mrs. Sanger said.
"We are trying to build up the conscious responsibility of parenthood," she said, "to make people of whatever station in life, realize that it is the greatest, the most sacred responsibility. When the parents are diseased or the children are likely to be diseased, or mentally deficient, or the parents cannot provide a living and an education, and the decencies of life, we ought to take care of the problem at the start, and not just shiftlessly have large families, and then have the burden of support fall on the state."
Representative Bell, of Salisbury, a member of the Judiciary committee, questioned Mrs. Sanger, saying "This particular bill permits the giving by any physician or registered nurse to any person applying to him or her, of information to prevent conception. Do you favor giving this information to woman, whether she be married or unmarried?"
"No one has ever asked except the married woman," Mrs. Sanger replied. "We ought to be able to leave it to the discretion of the physicians or nurses. If they can't use good judgment, they ought not to be allowed to have their licenses. We are trying to help the married woman, the married mother."
Representative Darbie asked "Do you think the feeble-minded person would be likely to inquire for this information?" "Yes," Mrs. Sanger answered, "we know of many cases of women who come to us and say there is something wrong with them, or something wrong with their husband, and they do not want a child if it is going to have 'something wrong.'"
What progress has this legislation made in other states, and what has been the trend of the movement?" Senate Chairman Arthur Ells asked. "The movement is very young," Mrs. Sanger replied. "We are trying to get the repeal of statutes in New York and Pennsylvania, and we are concentrating our efforts on these three states. Ohio has no law prohibiting the information, and some effective work is being done in that state."
A poll of those attending the hearing who were in favor of the bill was asked by the committee, and about 40 persons, all women, raised their hands.
Bishop Murray, opposing the bill, said "We would have to convert the whole state of Connecticut into an enormous insane asylum if there are to be found people in the state who are foolish enought to make use of this legislation if it is made into law."
""The inference is made," Bishop Murray said, "that poverty tends to cause conditions which are unfavorable to the race. The whole theory is fallacious. A law of nature governs the whole matter of the birth state. Attempting to interfere has meant race suicide, wherever it has been tried, and it would mean race suicide here."
"The statute now existing, preventing the use of any drug, article or instrument, and preventing the spread of any 'information intending to prevent conception,' was adopted by this state in 1821, and was the result of the wisdom and experience of those who established this state," the bishop said. "To do otherwise is to prevert a God--given function. This bill which these people now propose is contrary to the recognition of natural laws which have been on the statute books for over 100 years, and recognition of the laws has made this commonwealth, in my judgement, the most ideal in the United States."
"This movement is essentially atheistic," Bishop Murray remarked making his concluding points. Representative Smith, of Avon, Francis E. Jones, president-elect of the Connecticut Council of Catholic Men, Mrs. David Wilson, wife of the Hartford postmaster, Mrs. Otis Butler, who described herself as "one of eight children and mother of five, " Mary M. Curry, of Hartford, and the Rev. G. Herbert Ekins, who occupies a seat at the reporters' table in the House, spoke in oppositon to the bill.
Mrs. Sanger challenged Bishop Murray's statement concerning the violating of natural laws in practicing birth control. "Is there not anything today which is not a violation of natural laws?" she asked. "There are men in this room, and the gentlement is one of them, who are clean-shaven. That is against a law of nature. We are wearing clothes. We are walking upright instead of on all fours. We are benefiting by medicine and surgery. All those are violations of natural laws. It's absurd, sayign that this would be contrary to nature. It's the control of nature that we want to accomplish."
At the close of her remarks, Mrs. Sanger said she was one of eleven children and the mother of three, and had been a trained nurse, practicing in New York city for fourteen years. She said she spoke in the interest of thousands who were inarticulate, but who earnestly besought the right that the bill proposes to give.