Episode 19: “The Morality of Birth Control” by Margaret Sanger

The Morality of Birth Control

“Every woman should be absolute mistress of her own body.” -Margaret Sanger

The Speeches

Margaret Sanger’s speeches, “Morality and Birth Control” and “The Case for Birth Control” represent some of Sanger’s most compelling arguments for a woman’s right to decide whether, and when, she wanted to become pregnant. Sanger was a controversial figure, but her work saved women’s lives and ensured greater freedom and choice for women.

The Speaker

Margaret Higgins Sanger was an American birth control activist, sex educator, writer, and nurse. Sanger popularized the term “birth control”, opened the first birth control clinic in the United States, and established organizations that evolved into the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.


“Just so long as man dictates and controls the standards of sex morality, just so long will man control the world.”

-Margaret Sanger, “Morality and Birth Control”

Our Guest

Courtney McPhie

Courtney McPhie grew up in Colorado, and while she loves the rolling hills of Virginia, she misses the Rocky Mountains. Courtney is a high school English teacher outside Washington, DC, where she fights for equity and representation in the classroom. Another highlight about Courtney is she loves podcasts! Her favorite is NPR’s Code Switch. She has loved participating in Breaking Down Patriarchy because her undergrad offerings of women’s studies courses was extremely limited, so she feels like she is getting the solid education in feminist lit she always wanted.

Amy’s Takeaways

First, Courtney and I agree that Margaret Sanger’s eugenicist leanings are absolutely inexcusable and we unequivocally disavow them. The history of forced sterilization on women of color is deplorable, and we grieve that such a practice happened in our country. What we do celebrate, and feel grateful for, is the work of many women and men who made it possible for women to control their own reproductive lives and the size of their families. These two speeches and the issues they illuminate were incredibly eye-opening and important!!

“Birth control is the first important step woman must take toward the goal of her freedom. It is the first step she must take to be man’s equal. It is the first step they must both take toward human emancipation.”

-Margaret Sanger

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