Mrs. Sanger: Mr. Chairman, and ladies and gentlemen. Mr. Russell and I seem to agree on some of the points of this argument at least, but as usual with most opponents of birth control, they have absolutely no intelligent argument. (Laughter.) They always barricade themselves behind the Bible or the terrible vengeance of an offended nature. That is exactly what Mr. Russell is doing now.
Now, friends, I want to say let us get down to fundamental principles. Let us get together and look at life the way it is now, not as it might have been had Nature acted thus and so, not as it might be had God done thus and so, but as we find ourselves today. We have a few principles of life by which we must live, and I claim that every one of us has a right to health, to liberty and to the pursuit of happiness. I say furthermore that birth control is an absolutely essential factor in our living and having those three principles of happiness. (Applause.)
By birth control, I mean a voluntary, conscious control of the birth rate by means that prevent conception—scientific means that prevent conception. I don’t mean birth control by abstinence or by continence or anything except the thing that agrees with most of us, and as we will develop later on, most of us are glad that there are means of science at the present time that there are not injurious, not harmful, and all conception can be avoided.
Now let us look upon life as it really is, and we see society today is divided distinctly into two groups: those who use the means of birth control and those who do not.
On the one side we find those who do use means in controlling birth. What have they? They are the people who bring to birth few children. They are the people who have all the happiness, who have wealth and the leisure for culture and mental and spiritual development. They are people who rear their children to manhood and womanhood and who fill the universities and the colleges with their progeny. Nature has seemed to be very kind to that group of people. (Laughter.)
On the other hand we have the group who have large families and have for generations perpetuated large families, and I know from my work among these people that the great percentage of these people that are brought into the world in poverty and misery have been unwanted. I know that most of these people are just as desirous to have means to control birth as the women of wealth. I know she tries desperately to obtain the information, not for selfish purposes, but for her own benefit and for that of her children. In this group, what do we have? We have poverty, misery, disease, overcrowding, congestion, child labor, infant mortality, maternal mortality, all the evils which today are grouped in the crowd where there are large families of unwanted and undesired children.
Take the first one and let us see how these mothers feel. I claim that a woman, whether she is rich or poor, has a right to be a mother or not when she feels herself fit to be so. She has just as much right not to be a mother as she has to be a mother. It is just as right and as moral for people to talk of small families and to demand them as to want large families. It is just as moral.
If we let, as we are supposed to do, nature take her course, we will say that we know that any woman from the age of puberty until the age of the period of menopause that that woman could have anywhere from 15 to 20 children in her lifetime, and it will only take one relationship between man and woman to give her one a year to give her that large family. Let us not forget that.
Are we today, as women who wish to develop, who wish to advance in life, are we willing to spend all of our time through those years of development in bringing forth children that the world does not appreciate? Certainly, anyone who looks out to that will find that there is very little place in the world for children. And besides, if a woman does spend all her time in child-bearing, do you know that even with a healthy woman, that if she does this one out of ten of those women who have children as often as Nature sends them, dies from child-bearing? One out of every ten of women who let nature take her course and have from 12 to 16 children die from child-bearing, and furthermore, there are many cases where it is absolutely indispensable for a woman’s health, for her life in fact, to have means to control birth. There are cases as Dr. Knopf said, of syphilis, cases of tuberculosis; do you realize that out of every seven women who have tuberculosis today that four of them die, not from tuberculosis, my friends, but they die from pregnancy. They die because they have not that knowledge of birth control, because physicians and all the others who should be disseminating information and safeguarding these women’s lives are not giving them the fundamental things to cure her disease, but they allow her to become pregnant. They keep her in ignorance from this particular knowledge that should assist her in recovering her health. Not only with tuberculosis, but there are other diseases that are inimical to the woman’s health and happiness. Heart disease is another thing that pregnancy absolutely stimulates and it means a woman’s death. Not long ago there was a young girl who came to me who had kidney disease. She was a telegraph operator. Her husband was a young working man, but he was not able to support a family. She had on two different occasions tried to have children, but she had kidney disease and they found her in convulsions, she had froth at her mouth and she was taken to a hospital in a serious and critical condition. When she did this, the only thing they could do to her was to resort to abortion and yet they send her back to her home, to her husband and family again in just the same way with no information of how to protect herself against another condition just as she had gone through. That is what happens to our women today, even those who are suffering from disease where they should be protected with means and knowledge of birth control.