Friday, September 14, 2012

A Woman of Courage

     Happy Birthday to Margaret Sanger born on September 14, 1879!

     Is this name ringing any bells with you?  No?  I'll give you a hint.  Are you ready?  Two words -- Birth Control.   Sanger coined these two words that are now an integral part of our language and our culture.  In 1921 Sanger founded the American Birth Control League, which eventually became the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

     Planned Parenthood.  Birth Control.  Margaret Sanger.

     Sanger was born into a large Irish family.  Her mother died at 50 years old after having 18 pregnancies.  Sanger began her life's work as an advocate for women and families as an obstetrics nurse on the Lower East Side of New York.  There, nursing women who were often in the hospital because of attempts to abort unwanted pregnancies, she saw firsthand the connection between uncontrolled fertility, poverty and infant and maternal mortality.

     She eventually left nursing and began to write about the need for readily available contraception for all women.  At the time she began her work it was illegal to even send information about contraception through the mail, much less receiving counseling from doctors and nurses on the use of contraception.  Sanger eventually did some time in jail for her willingness to break this law.  Her persistence that women have the right to control their fertility paid off.  Laws were changed.  For many, minds were changed. 

     It seems ludicrous to me that the battle over reproductive rights goes on in 2012, some 133 years after Margaret Sanger was  born.  But it does.  I realize that some who read this see the work of today's Planned Parenthood as wrong, if not downright sinister.  To many Planned Parenthood has become merely the outlet for abortions, and proponents of Planned Parenthood are painted as wild-eyed feminists, out to murder babies willy nilly.

     I think Margaret Sanger saw the purpose of planning parenthood differently.  She realized that the consequence of women having choice, having the right to plan their own fertility, was that mothers stayed healthier, babies were born healthier, and all of it resulted in families who were healthier.  When our families are healthier -- physically, emotionally, financially and mentally -- our society is as well.  Sanger not only cared about women, she cared about families.  It's not enough to worry about the well-being of a child in utero, you have to worry about its well-being once it's born too.

     So Happy Birthday Margaret Sanger.  Thank you for caring about women and children.  Thank you for your family values.  Thank you for your courage to act accordingly.  

Margaret Sanger

Sources -- The Encyclopedia Britannica
                  The Writer's Almanac, September 14, 2012

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