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Margaret Sanger & the Birth Control Movement

The story of Margaret Sanger and the birth control movement mirrors in some respects the more recent debate over abortion, with two opposing sides taking rigid positions and using religious references as guides to behavior and arguments for their position. In both cases, there are social, cultural, and economic factors influencing the arguments on both sides as they influence decisions made by couples as to whether or not to seek to limit births through contraception or abortion. One element that caused concern when Sanger began her crusade seems less relevant today--she was criticized for talking about sexual matters in public, while today discussions of sexual matters are everywhere. Still, sexual matters are personal and raise the hackles of many people when discussed too openly even today.

Sanger's crusade involved a major element of asserting the rights of women, as is evident in her list of reasons why woman rebel: "Because I believe that deep down in woman's nature lies slumbering the spirit of revolt" (158). The pro-choice side in the abortion debate today similarly champions the rights of women to make their own decisions and to have autonomy over their bodies. Sanger pointed out the social disparity between rich women who could get birth control as they desired and poor women who could not (162-163). This same argument is raised with reference to abortion today, for the rich can travel to other jurisdictions or other countries to get what they want, while the poor are subject to laws preventing them from achieving the same end. While Sanger was undertaking what she saw as a moral crusade for the benefit of women and the poor above all, her opposition drew their support from religion and saw her program as the work of the devil. Anthony Comstock certainly couched his criticism in those terms as he saw her newspaper as "evil reading" through which the devil was "sowing his seed for future harvest" (161). Aborti...

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Margaret Sanger & the Birth Control Movement. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 09:47, May 21, 2019, from