Eugenics & Contraception, part 7

​In 1922 Margaret Sanger traveled to China, Korea, and Japan to learn about birth control practices there. In 1923 she opened the Clinical Research Bureau, the first legal birth control clinic in the country. It was staffed entirely by women doctors and social workers. Seven years later she opened a clinic in Harlem, staffed by black doctors and social workers, mostly men, probably due to the general lack of opportunities for black women to become doctors. 

Sanger also published a number of books promoting contraception as a social and moral (and possibly eugenic) good. Woman and the New Race and The Pivot of Civilization were persuasive. My Fight For Birth Control and Margaret Sanger: An Autobiography were autobiographical. Motherhood in Bondage was a collection of letters to Sanger by desperate women who needed to know how to prevent more pregnancies. 

Margaret Sanger had tried and failed to take on anti birth control legislation at a federal level with her 1929 venture, the National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control. A doctor at one of her clinics ordered a new model of diaphragm from Japan in 1932, as an intentional effort to force a court challenge of the Comstock Act. The diaphragm was seized by customs and after a few years in court, in 1936 Sanger and her clinic won. The provision of the Comstock Act forbidding the importation of birth control devices must be exempted for doctors. 

This was what she’d been fighting for since 1911, a quarter century of hard work come to fruition. Sanger moved to Tuscon, Arizona with every intention of retiring. In 1937 she oversaw reconciliation between the American Birth Control League and the Birth Control Council Research Bureau, which had been at odds since 1928. The two groups became a new combined one, the Birth Control Federation of America. 

Margaret Sanger served as the Federation’s president until she was 80 years old (1960), but with less institutional power than she’d held in prior groups. Conservative members in 1942 successfully overrode her to rebrand the organization what Sanger considered too euphemistic a name: Planned Parenthood Federation. In 1949 she helped establish the International Committee on Planned Parenthood. In 1952 this became International Planned Parenthood Federation, still the world’s largest non governmental organization providing reproductive health services. 

Stay tuned for more, including unethical human experiments on prisoners, patients, and Puerto Ricans. 

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