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Margaret Sanger

Margaret's Experiences - By: Teri Worrell
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Margaret Sanger's Experiences

As a mid-wife, Sanger was in the trenches with hundreds of poor women from the working class who were dying from giving birth and having illegal abortions. Some women had as many as twenty-eight plus illegal abortions. Men's wages could not provide for their families. Seeing no real solution in sight, Sanger vowed to scream from housetops to let the world know what is happening to these poor women, and to provide aid to women with knowledge about their own bodies. (Sanger 1969:56)



Clergy-influenced and physician-accepted laws suppressed contraceptive information, and it was a criminal offense to send such information through the mail. Educated people had access to this information and could use subterfuge to buy "French products", which were really condoms and other barrier methods as well as "feminine hygiene products", which were really spermicides.

(http://www.time.com/time/time100/leaders/profile/sanger.html)



Margaret Sanger was successful at achieving birth control for the working class, but she utterly failed at providing a humanitarian method of birth control for families of color. Revisionist historians praise Margaret Sanger as a great social reformer and attribute only the best of motives to her. These historians want us to believe that Sanger promoted birth control because of her great compassion for women and for minorities who had limited access to contraception, but in truth, Margaret Sanger was an adamant proponent of eugenics. Eugenics theorizes that some races are genetically superior and more fitted for survival than others. According to eugenics, the fitness of humankind will be enhanced when people with "good genes" reproduce and people with "bad genes" do not. Margaret Sanger was a proponent of the Negro Project, which advocated sterilizing Negroes in order to prevent them from reproducing. Negroes, many of whom had limited education, accepted her method of birth control through sterilization because they did not understand its ramifications. They couldn't afford to raise so many children, so sterilization became the contraceptive method of choice for many families. Margaret Sanger was also a supporter of closing the United States boarder in order to prevent an influx of poor immigrants.



These are some of the things that Margaret Sanger said in her books, magazines and publications:



"In her 1922 book, Pivot of Civilization, Sanger promoted birth control as the best means for improving the genetic stock of mankind. In this book, she specifically called for the segregation of 'morons, misfits and the maladjusted' and for the sterilization of "genetically inferior races." Sanger described her utopian view of a master race:

"Let us conceive for the moment at least, a world not burdened by the weight of dependent and delinquent classes, a total population of mature, intelligent, critical and expressive men and women. Instead of the inert, exploitable, mentally passive class which now forms the barren substratum of our civilization, try to imagine a population of active, resistant, passing individual and social lives of the most contented and healthy sort." (http://www.abortioninblackamerica.com/genocide.html)

"The oft quoted 1931 'My Way to Peace,' in which Sanger recommends that the government:



. . . keep the doors of Immigration closed to the entrance of certain aliens whose condition is known to be detrimental to the stamina of the race, such as feeble-minded, idiots, morons, insane, syphiletic, epileptic, criminal, professional prostitutes, and others in this class . . . apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization, and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is already tainted or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring. (Jan. 17, 1932)" (http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger/sanger-hitler_equation.htm)



"Offensive terminology aside, Sanger's beliefs, however inhumane they may seem in the current age of medical enlightenment when human suffering is much less visible in our daily lives, actually came from her direct experience with the poor and oppressed. An illustration can be found in a 1932 letter written to Sanger by a woman requesting birth control advice:



I will be thirty-six years old on December 16, 1932, and I shall have been married fifteen years on December 13, 1932. During this time I have given birth to eleven children, of whom four are now living--a boy of 13 1/2 years--a girl of 12 years and twin boys two years old. Three of these eleven children were born badly deformed--one with a hare lip and split palate and two with excessive water and a frog-like form. The last birth (one of the deformed ones) was in August 1931 and had to be accomplished with instruments and the Doctor . . . feared for my life and warned us against further pregnancy. (Client to MS, July 5, 1932)"

(http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger/sanger-hitler_equation.htm)





By today's standards, Margaret Sanger missed the mark of being a true feminist. However, she was a scientist, and she provided many women with the opportunity to have the freedom of birth control for the first time in their lives, regardless of how scandalous the situations became and the tactics that she used to overcome reluctance and prejudice about contraception.



Margaret Sanger stated in 1914 that, "a woman's body belongs to herself." The government should not be involved with reproductive and childbirth issues, Sanger believed. She advocated for pro-choice approach that "is coherent and makes moral sense. We must step away from the belief that it is a necessary evil. Pro-choice advocates must demonstrate that their views are moral and best for humanity."

(http://www.allsoulsnyc.org/publications/quarterly/quarterly/sanger.html)







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