Feminist Margaret Higgins Sanger was born in 1879. She fought for women’s rights throughout her life and coined the term birth control. Her close view of the plight of women began at home. Her mother had eighteen pregnancies and died at age forty. Margaret and her ten surviving siblings existed in a poor Irish Roman Catholic home in New York with her alcoholic father. After she became a nurse and cared for poor women suffering from unwanted pregnancies and complications of back-alley abortions, her drive for social change began.
During her marriage to architect William Sanger, they raised three children, while she continued to work for legalization of birth control. Sanger’s feminist publication The Woman Rebel, addressed women’s rights and provided birth control education. She fought to make contraceptives available in a world that prohibited sale and publication of “obscene and immoral materials” thought the Comstock Act. Margaret avoided jail time for her activities by fleeing to England.
After returning to the U.S., Margaret opened the first birth control clinic in the US with her sister and staff. They were all arrested for providing contraception information and fitting women with diaphragms.
In 1921, she started the American Birth Control League that later became Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Two years later, she opened the first legal birth control clinic in the US with the support of her second husband J. Noah H Slee, a wealthy businessman who funded her efforts for social reform.
Margaret Sanger and Katharine McCormick, International Harvester heiress, joined forces in funding and energizing research in human reproduction that led to oral contraceptive development. I remember well, when Enovid became available. As a nurse I cared for many women who nearly died at the hands of untrained abortionists. I have seen the harm first hand. The medical community welcomed the scientific advancement of oral contraceptives, yet today actions of some in Congress suppress access and harm women.
Approximately half of pregnancies are unintended. Today there are many safe methods of contraception to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. Abortion is not birth control and should not be used as such.
Planned Parenthood provides a wide range of healthcare. Defunding the organization is a terrible setback in women’s health. The work and legacies of many rational dedicated women who have worked for the betterment of women is a stake.
Improving sex education and access to healthcare for contraceptives can prevent unwanted pregnancies. Margaret Sanger, Katharine McCormick and their colleagues, including today’s advocates like Cecile Richards are inspirational women.
A vote for Hillary is a vote for women’s rights.
Betty Kuffel, MD FACP