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August 17, 1970

Birth Control in America: The Career of Margaret Sanger

JAMA. 1970;213(7):1197. doi:10.1001/jama.1970.03170330077027

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While we discuss the relative merits of various contraceptive methods, and the difficulty in educating "backward" people to limit population growth, we may forget that only a few decades ago it was illegal and generally considered immoral to give any information about birth control. As late as 1932, the AMA executive committee refused a proposal to conduct a study of contraception because it was a controversial subject. The gradual acceptance of birth control in the United States is largely due to the efforts of a few people, especially Margaret Sanger.

Mrs. Sanger, a nurse married to an architect, after a few years of sub-urban domesticity, became involved with a group of radicals, including Eugene Debs, John Reed, and Emma Goldman. She crusaded for various causes, but after witnessing a death from attempted abortion, decided to devote all her efforts to the emancipation of women and the dissemination of birth control