Birth Control Review, Feb. 1928, pp. 37-38


This unsigned editorial was possibly written by Margaret Sanger.


National Council of Public Morals
American Eugenics Society




Newspapers and periodicals have been full of reviews of the various happenings of 1927. But no review of the past year is complete which does not take note of the tremendous growth of the movement towards Birth Control. After a long struggle, at the beginning of which the advocates of Birth Control were voices crying in the wilderness and finding few to listen, Birth Control seems now to be taking the place in the minds of men to which its importance entitles it. Gradually the idea began to penetrate and Birth Control found supporters among scientists and thinkers. The new aspect of the movement is that writers on social questions questions now do not seem to think it necessary to argue the question. They simply take Birth Control for granted, as part of the basis on which any better social structure must be built. Such is the attitude of Thomas Vernor Smith, in "The Democratic Way of Life" and of Huntington and Whitney in "The Builders of America." Professor E. A. Ross makes a more definite appeal for Birth Control in "Standing Room Only," but one could cite book after book, among those recently published, where Birth Control is accepted as essential, rather than advocated as a reform. Many magazines and periodicals have opened their pages to articles and letters giving the pros and cons on Birth Control or announcing it as the subject of an Open Forum. Among the events of 1927 also must be recorded the great English debate held by the Cambridge Union when Birth Control, after a magnificent forensic display, was approved by a vote of 512 to 315.

More significant than lay opinion, is it that in 1927 there was a distinct awakening in the medical profession to the importance of Birth Control. The profession is being urged by some of the more far-sighted of its own members to "stop driving the subject of Birth Control to propaganda organizations, and try ourselves to regulate control of conception," an admonition which was lacking until the propaganda organizations had beaten a path along which the medical profession could advance with ease and comfort. The way of the doctor was made easier in 1927 by the Report made by the Special Committee to the National Council of Public Morals, which was published in London in November. This Committee recorded its opinion that "no impediment should be placed in the way of married couples who desired information as to contraceptives, when this was needed for medical reasons, or because of excessive child-bearing or poverty." It also recommended the giving of such information by medical practitioners and at hospitals. The time seems to be speedily coming when the medical profession, forgetting its long reluctance, will unhesitatingly claim contraception as a necessary part of medical practice. They will not be allowed the whole field without protests from the Economists, who were out in favor of Birth Control while the doctors, in general, were still hesitant. It is worth noting in this review of progress in 1927 that Birth Control and its Relation to the Food Supply was one of the questions suggested for those who wished to compete for the Thousand Dollar Economic prize, offered for the 24th time, through the generosity of Hart Schaffner and Marx of Chicago, and supervised by the Committee of which J. Lawrence Laughlin of the University of Chicago is chairman.

The recent Race Betterment Conference, held at Battle Creek, Michigan, January 2-6, is an example of the universal acceptance of Birth Control. We have no story of the Conference to publish in the BIRTH CONTROL REVIEW this month. The reason is that, from the official program, Birth Control--the cornerstone of the arch of race betterment--was omitted. But we have the evidence of Dr. S. Adolphus Knopf, who was refused the privilege of speaking on this subject but requested to speak there on tuberculosis, that Birth Control was present unofficially throughout the sessions. A good three-quarters of the speakers, he states, made it part of their program. And what brought it home to those at the conference who may not have given it much thought before was the statistics, graphically exhibited by electric time signals, of the American Eugenics society. We have given these before in the BIRTH CONTROL REVIEW, but they should be learned by heart."Every second," said the lights, "crime costs America $100,000, every 15 seconds $100,000 go for the care of persons with bad heredity, such as insane, feeble-minded, and other defectives. Every 16 seconds a person is born in the United States, every 7 1/2 minutes a high-grade person is born in the United States who will have ability to do creative work and be fit for leadership. About 4 percent of all American citizens come within this class. Every 48 seconds a person is born who will never grow up mentally beyond the age of a normal 8 year old child, every 50 seconds a person is committed to jail in the United States. Very few normal persons go to jail."There is no true Eugenics--no practical Race Betterment-that does not have Birth Control as its base.

THE price society pays for crime in money is only part of what it pays. The whole price, the perverted curiosity and perverted sympathy a shocking crime may arouse, is a far heavier one. The melodrama of the Snyder case has come to an end, but its effects are not over. Personalities like Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray are the true unfit, their influence is even more fateful than their crime and the evidence they furnish of the morbid instincts to which the crowd responds calls for eugenic action. So far is the newspaper reading public debased that it went to Ruth Snyder for an opinion on Birth Control. Just after her conviction the papers published an attack by her in which she said that a houseful of children would have saved her from sin. The bankruptcy of the opposition is shown by the character of this witness they bring forward. The Snyder case is a most convincing argument for Birth Control. Ruth Snyder should never have had any children. The child Mrs. Snyder left behind is far the most pitiable figure in the drama, but we can at least be thankful that she had only one. For children are forced not only to bear the stigma before the world but the inner stigmata of a bad inheritance.

Not the smallest evidence of the need for Birth Control eugenics is the evidence this case presents that even the decent instincts of the public are crookedly applied. It is inexcusable crimes such as this which stimulate opposition to capital punishment. This is unjust, for as long as a campaign against capital punishment is associated with such cases, decent and thoughtful people will be antagonized. When Birth Control has cut down the huge proportions of the problem of unfitness, when humanity, furnished with a normal inheritance and a normal and ample environment itself grows normal, capital punishment will, with very little agitation, become an institution of the dark past.