"Birth Control, 1942




The Birth Control Federation of America, Inc. by vote of its members at the Annual Meeting in January 1942, changed its name to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., as more indicative of its aims and purposes. Work during the year was concentrated on: (1) inclusion of pregnancy spacing in more State Health Departments; (2) stimulation of adequate teaching of contraception in medical schools and wider distribution to physicians, of a condensed authoritative text by Robert L. Dickinson, on techniques of conception control; (3) raising funds for research, and (4) continuing public education.

Claude C. Pierce, M.D. who retired as former Director of Region 1 of the U.S. Public Health Service, became Medical Director fo the Federation, John H. J. Upham, M.D., former President of the American Medical Association, was elected Chairman of the Board, and Nicholson J. Eastman, M.D., head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Johns Hopkins Medical School, became Chairman of the National Medical Council on Birth Control.

Public Health.

(1)Three more states were assisted in initiation pregnancy spacing in their Health Departments, bring the total to six.

Clinical Service. On December 1, 1942, there was 782 services in the United States; 216 in hospitals; 256 in public health quarters; 310 extra mural; and 336 of the total supported in whole or part by public funds.

(2) Medical Education.

Copies of a new edition of Dr. Dickinson’s "Techniques of Conception Control" were sent, on request, to 45,000 physicians and medical schools. Returns on a questionnaire sent to 34,000 of those receiving the pamphlet, showed that the doctors greatest interest was in technique. A syllabus for teaching contraception in medical schoold was drawn up, to be sent for their consideration to heads of these institutions.

Medical Endorsements. The Florida State Medical Association, the Tennessee State Medical Society and the West Virginia State Medical Association, all passed resolutions approving child-spacing, or Planned Parenthood, as part of public health activities and medical practice.

Research and Investigations.

(3) The Federation raised funds for research in various aspects of human fertility, to be conducted under the guidance of the National Committee on Maternal Health. These studies are long range projects; results will be announced at their termination. There is still urgent need for research in simpler effective contraceptive methods. Among the independent clinical studies on simple forms of contraception, were those of Irving R. Stein, et al (a) in Chicago, Beebe and Overton, (b) in Nashville, Beebe (c) in a rural area in West Virginia, and Beebe and Geisler (d) in a rural area of Kentucky. All of these studies showed a varying reduction in fertility among the cases advised. Clinic Reports show diaphragm and jelly the choice of doctors in private practice; in public health clinics foam powder and sponge seemed to give adequate protection when regularly used. the non-use of a method, occasionally, was the human factor which faced doctors in all branches of preventive medicine.

The Council on Chemistry and Pharmacy of the American Medical Association appointed a Committee on contraceptives to study drugs used in this field and to report on contraceptive preparations, and the Medical Sub-Committee of the Family Planning Association of Great Britain appointed a special Ad-Hoc Committee to conduct a clinical investigation of the efficiency of certain chemical contraceptives.

Public Education.

(4)A marked increase in magazines and newspaper articles stimulated public interest, in planned Parenthood and especially in the question of having babies in wartime. Negro Program. A two-year Negro child-spacing demonstration project was successfully carried out under the most difficult conditions to provide proof that under public health direction the benefits of planned parenthood can reach and will receive acceptance by even the poorest and most illiterate groups. Negro leaders in the fields of medicine, education and social welfare gave active support to a national educational campaign.

Legal Decisions, U.S. The Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut, by a vote of 3 to 2, on the Tileston case in June, ruled that the State law on contraception was constitutional and that under it no doctor could advise the use of contraceptives even in cases where the life of a patient was threatened by pregnancy. In November, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to accept the Tileston case for review. In Massachusetts, all efforts of the opposition to keep the question off the ballot having failed, the people voted in a referendum as to wehther physicians in that state could legally advice patients on contraceptives, when life or health were threatened by pregnancy. The question lost, due to ambiguity in its wording on the ballot, and to a campaign of misrepresentation, led officially by the Roman Catholic Church, which distorted and confused the issue.


The countries abroad involved in World War II, as active participants, or under Nazi domination, had lowered birth rates in 1942, but the United States, whose marriage rate for 1941 was the highest on record, reported that its birth rates, leveled off during ten years of depression, had risen to 22.9 per 1000 population in September 1942, due to war marriages and better economic conditions.


In Great Britain birth control clinics remained open and an increase in the number of patients was reported. Conscription of women for war work led to a demand for contraceptive by many who could not carry on in th country’s war effort if they became pregnant. Medical Officers of Health were reported as cooperating, in many countries by referring cases to clinics for advice. Elsewhere in Europe no information filtered through, beyond and authentic report from Germany that contraceptives were among the few articles still advertised for sale in a number of large cities. Germany, Italy, and Japan were all pressing frantically for higher birth rates. this policy, accompanied by suppression of birth control information did not bring the desired results.

(a) Stein, Irving R. Cohen, Melvin R. and Nielsen, Rita. "Jelly alone as Contraceptive Method". Human Fertility 7:33-41, April 1942.

(b) Beebe, Gilbert W. and Overton, John. "The Contraceptive Service of the Department of Health, City of Nashville. Journal of the American Medical Association. 118:1045-1049, March 28, 1942.

(c) Beebe, G.W. Contraception and Fertility in the Southern Appalachian. Baltimore, Williams and Wilkins, 1942.

(d) Beebe, G.W. and Geisler, Murray. "Control of Contraception in a Selected Rural Sample" -- Human Biology 14:1-20, February 1942.