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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Pro-Life vs Pro-Choice - Roe v Wade Doe v Bolton 41 Years Later Part I - Margaret Sanger

41 years ago, the Supreme Court delivered the Roe v. Wade decision, along with companion case Doe v. Bolton. Today marks 41* years of over 56 million legalized abortions.(1)  Commemorating today's 40th March for Life Washington, D.C and the days preceding the 10th Walk for Life West Coast  lets us review how we got here. 

Margaret Sanger
In Her Own Words

Margaret Sanger spent her entire adult life defending her beliefs.  She was the founder of Planned Parenthood, who today touts her as one of their movement’s great heroes.  What were her beliefs?

“Marriage laws abrogate the freedom of woman by enforcing upon her a continuous sexual slavery and a compulsory motherhood.” (2) 

“For centuries she [woman] has populated the earth in ignorance…she has become not the mother of a nobler race but a mere breeding machine grinding out a humanity which fills insane asylums, feeble-minded institutions, hospitals and penitentiaries…The world is full of undesired babies and every undesired baby represents a terrible infringement of the personal rights of a mother…”(3)

“The great majority of mental defectives are not in institutions, but are at large in the community.  No defective can produce normal offspring…The supply of defectives should be cut off at the source.  Mere governmental economy demands this…To use public funds needlessly for the care of the unfit instead of for education and opportunity for the normal is criminal stupidity…” (4)

“Birth control itself, often denounced as a violation of natural law, is nothing more or less than the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit, of preventing the birth of defectives or of those who will become defectives.  So, in compliance with nature’s working plan, we must permit womanhood its full development before we can expect of it efficient motherhood.  If we are to make racial progress, this development of womanhood must precede motherhood in every individual woman…” (5)

“Today Eugenics is suggested by the most diverse minds as the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial political and social problems…The Eugenic and civilization value of Birth Control is becoming apparent to the enlightened and the intelligent…As an advocate of Birth Control, I wish to take advantage of the present opportunity to point out that the unbalance between the birth rate of the “unfit” and the “fit,” admittedly the greatest present menace to civilization, can never be rectified by the inauguration of a cradle competition between these two classes.  In this matter, the example of the inferior classes, the fertility of the feeble minded, the mentally defective, the poverty stricken classes, should not be held up for emulation ...the most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over fertility of the mentally and physically defective.”  (6) 

“The campaign for birth control is not merely of eugenic value, but is practically identical with the final aims of Eugenics.” (7)

“Have Congress set up a special department for the study of population problems…the main objects…to raise the level and increase the general intelligence of the population…to keep the doors of immigration closed to the entrance of certain aliens whose conditions is known to be detrimental to the stamina of the race…to 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…to insure the country against future burdens of maintenance for numerous offspring as may be born of feebleminded parents…give certain dysgenic groups in our population their choice of segregation or sterilization…to apportion farm lands and homesteads for these segregated persons where they would be taught to work under competent instructors for the period of their entire lives…Take an inventory of …illiterates, paupers, unemployables, criminals, prostitutes, dope-fiends, classify them in special departments under governmental medical protection and segregate them on farms…With the future citizen safeguarded…we could then turn our attention to the basic needs for international peace.”  (8) 

In 1939 Margaret Sanger established the Birth Control Federation of America which became Planned Parenthood in 1942. In 1951, Margaret Sanger secured a grant from Planned Parenthood for Gregory Pincus to begin work on the creation of her “magic pill,” a hormone that could be used as a contraceptive. 

Margret Sanger
Laws that needed Challenging

At the same time Margret Sanger was writing about her philosophy she was challenging what she considered archaic and inhuman laws.

In the June 1914 issue of her new magazine, The Women Rebel, Margaret Sanger wrote that she dreamed that someday there would be a “magic pill” as easy to take as an aspirin that could be used as birth control.  Her use of the term “birth control” in a magazine available to the general public was a decisive challenge by Sanger to the Comstock Act of 1873. 

In an act of civil disobedience, Sanger again challenge the Comstock Law by opening a birth control clinic in Brooklyn New York in 1916.  For ten cents each woman received Sanger’s pamphlet, What Every Girl Should Know, which explained the female reproductive system and had instructions on various forms of contraceptives.  Ten days later the clinic was closed and Sanger arrested.  Offered a suspended sentence if she promised not to repeat her crime, Sanger refused and spent thirty days in jail.

“No other country in the world except the United States makes it a crime to impart information to prevent conception… My experience as a trained nurse convinced me that these laws are the most outrageous piece of legislation on the statue books today...” (9)

In 1918 Jonah Goldstein represented Sanger in her appeal.  Goldstein argued that the Comstock Act violated both the federal and state Constitutions, by preventing the dissemination of information to all persons.  The New York Court of Appeals sustained her conviction - However, Sanger’s upheld conviction led Judge Frederick Crane to include in his decision “a more liberal interpretation of New York State’s “Little Comstock” law, enabling physicians for the first time to legally prescribe contraception for general health reasons.”  (10)

“When we realize that each feeble minded person is a potential source of an endless progeny of defect, we prefer the policy of immediate sterilization of making sure that parenthood is absolutely prohibited to the feeble minded.”  (11)

Margaret Sanger’s idea of a “policy of immediate sterilization” became law when Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes affirmed Buck v Bell in 1927. “With the Supreme Court endorsement [of Buck v Bell] the Virginia law provided authority for sterilization of more than 8,300 inmates of state mental institutions between 1927 and 1972, setting the stage for the passage of laws that would sanction sterilization operations performed on another 60,000 Americans.” (12) 

On a side note, the law under which Hitler sterilized millions during World War II contained much of the same language found in the Virginia sterilization law endorsed by the US Supreme Court in Buck v. Bell.  Also at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials of 1945 – 1946, the Nazi defendants of Hitler’s Third Reich, testified that their eugenics laws were based on Virginia’s precedent.  (13)

In 1936, in another act of civil disobedience, Margaret Sanger was arrested after leaking information to postal authorities that she illegally ordered birth control products through the mail.  This led to a victory for  Sanger and the birth control movement in United States v. One Package, and another crack in the Comstock Law.

After Sanger established Planned Parenthood in 1942, she used the power of her organization to continue to go after the law with the favorable decisions of Poe v Ullman in 1961 and Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965.

In Griswold v Connecticut, Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut Executive Director Estelle Griswold and their Medical Director C. Lee Buxton were arrested and fined $100 for giving information, instruction and medical advice to married persons regarding birth control. When this case was brought before the Supreme Court, the decision found that though the right to privacy is not specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights “specific guarantees in the Bills of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations,” that protect a right to privacy in this case.

Say what, dictionary please.  A penumbra is an opaque shadow and emanations emit a product.  So the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Griswold and Planned Parenthood not because the right to privacy is in the Bill of Rights, but because guarantees in the Bill of Rights emit opaque shadows that protect the right to privacy in this case.  Or something like that. 

More changes would be needed to get to Margaret Sanger's ultimate goal:  the facilitation of "weeding out the unfit by ridding the world of the "undesired babies" that are an "infringement on the personal rights of the mother."  Margaret Sanger's life mission would come to fruition when every woman was free to privately make her own decision on birth control, on when or if to bear or beget a child.  Margaret Sanger died in 1966, seven years before her goal would be achieved on January 22, 1973 in companion cases Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton. 
In November 1972 Hollywood joined hands with Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood with the Golden Girls two part episode, Maude’s Dilemma telling women “There’s only one sensible way out of this [pregnancy], you don’t have to have the baby. (2:40 minute mark)... It's as simple as going to the dentist.(7.46)”

It is not as simple as going to the dentist - numerous men and women have come to this realization. If you are in need of help or guidance because you feel regret from your abortion please visit Rachel's Vineyard healing the pain of abortion one weekend at a time. Pax.
Pro-Life vs Pro-Choice - Roe v Wade Doe v Bolton 41 Years Later Part II Who are Roe and Doe?

* Today January 22, 2015 marks 42 years of legalized abortions.  Commemorating today's 41th March for Life Washington, D.C and the days preceding the 11th Walk for Life West Coast 

(1)The State of Abortion in the United States, January 21, 2014
(2) Margaret Sanger, The Women Rebel, No Gods No Masters, March 1914
(3) Margaret Sanger, Voluntary Motherhood, March 1917
(4) Margaret Sanger, Birth Control: Yes or No?, September 1919
(5) Margaret Sanger, Woman and the New Race, 1920, Chapter 18, The Goal, page 229
(6)Margaret Sanger, “The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda”, The Birth Control Review, October 1921, page 5
(8)Margaret Sanger, A Plan for Peace, The Birth Control Review, April 1932
(9)Margaret Sanger, “Voluntary Motherhood, March 1917
(10)Margaret Sanger, Papers Project
(11)Margaret Sanger, Pivot of Civilization, 1922, pg 101-102
(12)Lombardo, Paul.  Three Generations, No Imbeciles:  New Light on Buck v Bell, New York University Law Review, April 1985
(13)Thirteen Ways of Looking at Buck v Bell, Michelle Oberman, SCU School of Law, 3/20/09, page 21
Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut Executive Director Estelle Griswold outside Planned Parenthood Center of New Haven

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