Forward and Preface to Laws Concerning Birth Control in the United States




Laws Concerning Birth Control in the United States (New York, 1929) pp. 5-7


For draft versions see Margaret Sanger Microfilm Edition, Smith College Collections S71:187 and 191.


Inge, William Ralph
Keith, Arther




This survey of the state laws concerning Birth Control is an interpretation of the law in each state and the particular section dealing with the subject is quoted.

In a majority of states the Penal Code has been revised and while there have been few changes in the laws during the past ten years the section numbers have been changed for reference purposes, therefore it has been advisable in this survey to indicate the new section numbers.

The laws of many states are so drawn that they cannot be definitely stated without consulting the decisions of the courts. This is particularly true of Maryland, Kentucky, Kansas, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

There is a question of the rights of physicians to give information in some states. The statutes of Kansas and Massachusetts prohibit only the publication or advertisement of such information. They are very similar to the statutes of such states as Arizona, Washington and others listed under the heading of states where physicians may legally give information on prevention of contraception but cannot publish it.

The law in Connecticut prohibits only the use of any drug or medicine, article or instrument. Nothing is said prohibiting physicians from giving such information. The only state in the Union that clearly prohibits a physician from giving information is Mississippi.


"The Comstock legislation in America has done unmixed harm. It is worse than useless to put down by law a practice which a very large number of people believes to be harmless, and which must be left to the taste and the conscience of the individual."--The Very Rev. W. R. Inge, Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, London.

Sir Arthur Keith asserts that the United States of America is now the field of the "unfolding of the greatest experiment in race building the world has ever seen." To the successful fulfillment of this great experiment--co-ordination and co-operation of all the forces of intelligence are essential if we are going to carry it through consciously and creatively.

In the creation of a race of strong, well-born children, fitted by proper heredity and breeding to transmit undimmed the life force to the succeeding generation, the instrument of Birth Control cannot be ignored: its importance is crucial and primary. By this instrument uncounted thousands of parents have been liberated from the bondage of unwilling parenthood. Fundamentally Birth Control, scientifically, hygienically and ethically exercised, places in the hands of all potential parents the power to master imperious reproductive instincts. To women in particular it confers the power of conscious and voluntary choice. It permits the potential mother to determine when, where, and under what conditions--social, economic and financial--she shall bring children into the world. She can control the number of her children; she can space their births to suit her physical resources and the conditions of family life, as well as to assure the well-being, the future health and happiness of all her children. Birth Control is thus revealed, in addition, as a beneficent social force closely and organically related to the well-being of the entire community--civic and national.

The Birth Control Clinic, as a school for parenthood, and as a social agency strikes at the alarmingly high maternal death rate which is now so profound a disgrace to this nation. A system of standardized and efficiently functioning Birth Control Clinics operating in all American communities would accomplish much in the solutions of the nation-wise problems of dependency, delinquency, and the administration of organized charities. Eventually, it is predicted, conscious and voluntary parenthood would eliminate the necessity of the expenditure of vast funds in the maintenance of institutions which now harbor thousands of helpless dependents. These funds, it is our contention, should be utilized toward the development of American civilization in its finer aspects.

Co-ordination and co-operation, to repeat, are the first essentials. The scattered forces of intelligence must be mobilized into a nation-wide unit, organized to influence all enlightened and intelligent American citizens to join in a campaign to remove the obstacles which now hinder the efficient functioning of existing and experimental schools of motherhood.

The first duty is to effect the amendment of the United States Penal Code (Sections 211, 245, 311 and 312) which prohibit the use of the United States mail for the transmission of any advice concerning contraception. Section 211, moreover, makes it unlawful for one physician to send through the mails the result or benefits of his practice or research. To send an applicant for information the address of any legally operating Birth Control Clinic is also illegal, according to the present Federal statutes.

Necessary amendment of these sections of the Federal Penal Code cannot be effected without the organization of a definite, unified national body of distinguished leaders in various fields of endeavor, which, by the prestige of its intelligence and public-mindedness, can enlighten public opinion in widely separated communities concerning the national and racial necessity of removing legal obstacles which now hinder the successful fulfillment of the greatest experiment in race building the world has ever witnessed.