We asked in this letter, the
1. Is over-population a menace to the peace of the world?
2. Would the legal dissemination of scientific Birth Control
information through the medium of clinics by the medical profession
be the most logical method of checking the problem of
3. Would knowledge of Birth Control change the moral attitude of men
and women toward the marriage bond or lower the moral standards of
the youth of the country?
4. Do you believe that knowledge which enables parents to limit the
families will make for human happiness, and raise the moral, social
and intellectual standards of population?
We sent such a letter not only to those who, we thought, might agree
with us, but we sent it also to our known opponents. Most of these
people answered. Every one who answered did so with sincerity and
courtesy, with the exception of one group whose reply to this
important question as demonstrated at the Town Hall last Sunday
evening was a disgrace to liberty-loving people, and to all
traditions we hold dear in the United States. I believed that the
discussion of the moral issue was one which did not solely belong to
theologians and to scientists, but belonged to the people. And
because I believed that the people of this country may and can
discuss this subject with dignity and with intelligence I desired to
bring them together, and to discuss it in the open.
When one speaks of moral, one refers to human conduct. This implies
action of many kinds, which in turn depends upon the mind and the
brain. So that in speaking of morals one must remember that there is
a direct connection between morality and brain development. Conduct
is said to be action in pursuit of ends, and if this is so, then we
must hold the irresponsibility and recklessness in our action is
immoral, while responsibility and forethought put into action for
the benefit of the individual and the race becomes in the highest
sense the finest kind of morality.
We know that every advance that woman has made in the last half
century has been made with opposition, all of which has been based
upon the grounds of immorality. When women fought for higher
education, it was said that this would cause her to become immoral
and she would lose her place in the sanctity of the home. When women
asked for the franchise it was said that this would lower her
standard of morals, that it was not fit that she should meet with
and mix with the members of the opposite sex, but we notice that
there was no objection to her meeting with the same members of the
opposite sex when she went to church.
The church has ever opposed the progress of woman on the ground that
her freedom would lead to immorality. We ask the church to have more
confidence in women. We ask the opponents of this movement to
reverse the methods of the church, which aims to keep women moral by
keeping them in fear and in ignorance, and to inculcate into them a
higher and truer morality based upon knowledge. And ours is the
morality of knowledge. If we cannot trust woman with the knowledge
of her own body, then I claim that two thousand years of Christian
teaching has proved to be a failure.
We stand on the principle that Birth Control should be available to
every adult man and woman. We believe that every adult man and woman
should be taught the responsibility and the right use of knowledge.
We claim that woman should have the right over her own body and to
say if she shall or if she shall not be a mother, as she sees fit.
We further claim that the first right of a child is to be desired.
While the second right is that it should be conceived in love, and
the third, that it should have a heritage of sound health.
Upon these principles the Birth Control movement in America stands.
When it comes to discussing the methods of Birth Control, that is
far more difficult. There are laws in this country which forbid the
imparting of practical information to the mothers of the land. We
claim that every mother in this country, either sick or well, has
the right to the best, the safest, the most scientific information.
This information should be disseminated directly to the mothers
through clinics by members of the medical profession, registered
nurses and registered midwives.
Our first step is to have the backing of the medical profession so
that our laws may be changed, so that motherhood may be the function
of dignity and choice, rather than one of ignorance and chance.
Conscious control of offspring is now becoming the ideal and the
custom in all civilized countries. Those who oppose it claim that
however desirable it may be on economic or social grounds, it may be
abused and the morals of the youth of the country may be lowered.
Such people should be reminded that there are two points to be
considered. First, that such control is the inevitable advance in
civilization. Every civilization involves an increasing forethought
for others, even for those yet unborn. The reckless abandonment of
the impulse of the moment and the careless regard for the
consequences, is not morality. The selfish gratification of
temporary desire at the expense of suffering to lives that will come
may seem very beautiful to some, but it is not our conception of
civilization, or is it our concept of morality.
Margaret Sanger Speech
Morality of Birth Control