Women’s History Month 2012: Margaret Sanger

The war over women’s bodies is fiercely raging. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Here are some recent excerpts from mainstream media sources;

Foster Friess, a prominent backer of Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, raised eyebrows Thursday when he offered up his own idea for a possible contraceptive method: “This contraceptive thing, my gosh, it’s so… inexpensive. Back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives.” Friess’s implication is that if women hold aspirin between their legs, they won’t open them. “The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly,” he told MSNBC‘s Andrea Mitchell. (CBSNews.com)

Obviously, he’s right. Let’s give every woman some aspirin! Here’s another;

“What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps. (interruption) The johns? We would be the johns? No! We’re not the johns. (interruption) Yeah, that’s right. Pimp’s not the right word. Okay, so she’s not a slut. She’s “round heeled.” I take it back.” (Rush Limbaugh‘s Radio Show)

Get my point?

For some reason we (yes I said we) have found it fit to place women’s bodies in the crosshairs of political debate. At some point we decided that it would be appropriate to question a woman’s right to control her own body. So with this war on women, their bodies, and their reproductive rights in full swing, I thought it apropos to bring it back to where it started.

I’m devoting this post to a certified badass who raised her voice when women weren’t ‘supposed’ to, a trailblazer who took matters into her own hand.

Margaret Sanger.

Margaret Sanger Deutsch: Margaret Sanger (* 1879)

Margaret Sanger opened the first Family Planning clinic in the United States in 1916. The first. This was probably the single event that started this war on women. Not long after she opened the clinic, she was arrested, and later convicted of providing contraception. I wasn’t there but I don’t think she ever denied it. But wait, there’s more…

The judge in Sanger’s case offered her a lighter sentence (why didn’t he think she could do her time?) if she promised (like a good girl) to never break the law again. She delivered a proverbial ‘up yours,’ boldly stating that if they didn’t change the law then they should expect to see her again. She served her full sentence.

She wasn’t done…in fact, she was just getting started.

Five years after her first attempt at providing dangerous contraband (that’s sarcastic) she founded the American Birth Control League with the foundational belief that children should be consciously planned for by the mother and that children should have loving environments. Plain and simple. She was still pretty worried about how she could get contraceptives to women without breaking the law. Sanger did some research and found a loophole that allowed her to create the Clinical Research Bureau, an organization run by physicians with the sole purpose of administering birth control.


English: 1917 photo of Margaret Sanger.
Sanger leading the charge. (Image via Wikipedia)

Over time these efforts began to lose steam. Sanger didn’t give up. She took steps to force the U.S. government to make a decision on birth control. As a result of judicial victories the American Medical Association decided that they thought that contraception was a-ok.

Look, don’t get me wrong – I don’t believe in everything that Margaret Sanger did (just read about her views on race, eugenics, etc.) but much like my post about Michelle Rhee, I believe that she forced an issue that was important to women everywhere. It’s with her fervor that I fight for everything I believe in.

Don’t give up the fight for your body. Margaret’s watching you!

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