Birth control, population control, and family planning

an overview.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This overview of the US birth control movement reflects on the emergence of family planning policy due to the efforts of Margaret Sanger, feminists, and the civil rights movement, the eugenics motive to limit "deviant" populations, and the population control movement, which aims to solve social and economic problems through fertility control. Population control moved through three stages: from the cause of "voluntary motherhood" to advance suffrage and women's political and social status, to the concept of "birth control" promoted by socialist feminists to help empower women and the working class, to, from 1920 on, a liberal movement for civil rights and population control. Physicians such as Dr. Robert Latou Dickinson legitimized the movement in the formation of the Committee on Maternal Health in 1925, but the movement remained divided until 1939, when Sanger's group merged with the American Birth Control League, the predecessor of the present Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A key legal decision in 1939 in the United States v. One Package amended the Comstock Act and allowed for the distribution of birth control devices by mail to physicians. Sanger, after a brief retirement, formed the International Planned Parenthood Federation and supported research into the pill. Eugenicists through the Committee on Maternal Health supported Christopher Tietze and others developing the pill. Final constitutional access to contraception based on the right to privacy was granted in Griswold v. Connecticut. The ruling in Eisenstadt v. Baird in 1972 extended this right to unmarried persons. The right to privacy was further extended in the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 on legal abortion. The argument for improving the quality of the population remained from the formation of the Population Reference Bureau in 1929 through the 1960s. Under the leadership of Rockefeller, population control was defined as justified on a scientific and humanitarian basis. US government support for national and international family planning proceeded slowly through the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Congress during 1967-70 enacted strong legislation in support of national and international family planning. The Bucharest conference in 1974 highlighted the inadequacies of international population control that deemphasized economic development. Polarization and divisiveness on population policy persists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of policy history : JPH
Volume7
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes

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Population Control
Family Planning Services
Contraception
family planning
Civil Rights
Privacy
right to privacy
Family Planning Policy
Eugenics
Legal Abortion
Population
federation
Working Women
Physicians
Federal Government
Economic Development
Retirement
Social Problems
Postal Service
Public Policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

Cite this

Birth control, population control, and family planning : an overview. / Critchlow, Donald.

In: Journal of policy history : JPH, Vol. 7, No. 1, 1995, p. 1-21.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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