Book Review: Margaret Sanger a life of passion
I had just finished reading this book today. Quite frankly, Jean H. Baker’s biography of the leader of the Birth Control Movement, speaks volumes in itself of her life and times. Supporter of “eugenics” (good genetics), not necessarily was she a “racist” after all. And yes, the use of birth control as actual health measures, given all the complications that are related to pregnancy. It is not a book that I would wish to add onto, and definitely one I’d recommend for anyone to read. Ms. Sanger a Socialist and a nurse. Then a rebel against the Catholic church and its public policy prohibitions against the use of any birth control method. A woman who also fought the Anthony (I know pornography when ever I see it) Comstock laws, that regarded any public discussion of female sexuality as being “obscene.” Any public discussion of birth control and venereal disease as also being obscene. Such a liberal (meaning: generous or broad based) concept of prurience to invite a coercive state into. Especially, when it was the Roman Catholic Church that was calling the shots.
From what the book divulged through some of its earlier chapters; the women, especially among the poor, wanted to have no more children. What could they do to prevent ever getting pregnant again. The discussions of thousands of illegal abortions performed on a monthly basis, from which undoubtedly a percentage of women died. Did the Roman Diocese seem to care, that its political views did put non Catholic and Catholic women at risk? Does the anti-choice movement today, consider that forcing women to have child after child can actually be dangerous to their health? And after all the brouhaha over “responsibilities” and “burdens;” I would certainly have to ask, which is cheaper? The birth control pill? The willful termination of the pregnancy? Or the welfare check and food stamps?
I am fully aware now of the argument, “sex without consequences.” That it has been bruited about for years since the Roe v Wade SCOTUS decision. What if some of these people were to look back in actual history, such as Ms. Baker had, and think about the consequences of sex? The consequences of pregnancy? The consequences of hard labor to bring a child into the world? That these consequences are in fact medical, before they become social or political? Just as there was a conservative argument regarding those “fit” to have children as opposed to those “unfit” to have children. We didn’t seem to mind the “unfit” not reproducing again. But we did seem to have a problem with those “eugenically fit” of not desiring to reproduce again. In a society of double standards, it can be said that Ms. Sanger was its ultimate symbol. Thus, the “unfit” produced “burdens on society.” Or there was a lot of handwringing over “racial suicide” from Theodore Roosevelt onward. Politics and religion that could produce some very strange and heart wrenching theories.
In reading this book, I am reminded that there is always more to the story than partisans on either side of the divide like to consider. Was Ms. Sanger “pro-abortion?” Not exactly. But at the close of her life, an abortion rights movement was starting to gain ground even prior to the Roe v. Wade decision. Was the original incentive of Planned Parenthood to advocate for legal abortions? No, according to Ms. Baker’s research, it was an advocacy to dispense birth control info and devices and thus reduce the incentive for abortions. Ms. Sanger wasn’t opposed to the birth of children. What she was opposed to, was children born into the kind of circumstances that would lead to their being a burden on society, or of dying in their infancy, or even being a constant drain on the public welfare dollars.
Then there are the political views which she expressed: the higher the amount of actual population within society, the greater the opportunity for countries to go to war; that I’ll simply have to disagree with. Population growth doesn’t necessarily start wars. But population that outgrows its own resources, would become a major social and economic problem within that particular country. If war did have an inevitable handshake relationship with population growth; then economics would lie behind any invasion, reducing the surplus population in combat on “moral grounds,” would be some particularly telling excuses. But, like I said, I am not sure that I can agree with that particular theory. It would be a truly callous attitude toward humanity.