Americans are Headline Thinkers




Margaret Sanger Papers Microfilm, Library of Congress, LCM 128:356


This speech was delivered at the Baltimore Open Forum on January 3, 1926. This version may have been a press release.



"Americans are 'headline thinkers', they do not consider the implications of their ideas," Mrs. Sanger said. "They are sentimentally generous; they build milk stations for children that never should have been born. The fact that in the last year 200,000 babies died in the United States, ninety per cent. on account of poverty and neglect, appeals to our sentimental natures, but we do not stop to consider that these deaths might easily have been averted.

Not even our doctors are permitted to receive information on this subject. Thousands of books are burned up annually at the Custom House in New York, books telling of the successful working out of Birth Control methods in Holland.

Religion, however, plays a less important part in this matter than generally is believed. Of those whom we received in our Birth Control clinic in New York last year thirty-two per cent. were Roman Catholics and thirty per cent. Hebrews.

If a child were given freedom of choice in the matter of his birth he probably would ask his parents most embarrassing questions. First he probably would want to see their health certificates. Then, if he found that his prospective parents were living in two rooms with the eight children already born to them we can well imagine him saying, 'No, thank you!'

Our Government is getting very particular about those who are admitted to this country from other nations. Even their ideas must coincide with those of the reigning powers. But the same Government is not at all particular about the imbeciles, diseased and deformed children who are born in the United States.

In this country 20,000,000 of the people belong to the small family group; 85,000,000 to the large family group. It is in the latter that nearly all of the disease, delinquency, infant mortality and child labor are found. Members of the small family group practice birth control. There is no reason for denying this same information to the other and larger group.

The war demonstrated that our standards of manhood were below even those of Europe and we had to reduce those standards. If less than sixty-five per cent. of our men of military age were fit to go to war how can we consider them fit for the more serious duties of parenthood?

The problem, if anything, is more acute in the South, West and far North than it is in the tenement districts. In the cities acute cases of suffering can be alleviated while in the crowded rural shacks no relief is available. There are no organizations to care for unwanted, undernourished, defective children in the great open spaces such as there are even in the tenements.

In the past population has been limited by war, famine and pestilence. Our organization hopes to accomplish the same end by the more humane method of limiting the birth rate.

Birth Control does not mean no children. It means bringing into the world only such children as are wanted by healthy parents. Those who believe that birth control would lead to race suicide know nothing of the strength of the parental instinct."