Wendy: Margaret Sanger was an early and strong advocate for reproductive freedom as she fought for legalized birth control.
In 1916, she founded the American Birth Control League. Today we know the league as Planned Parenthood.
At her Planned Parenthood biography, you'll learn a great deal about her.
One of the first books the Nazis burned were books written by her.
She felt "that reproductive decisions should be made on an individual and not a social or cultural basis"
Time Magazine picked her as one of the Time 100 and an article by Gloria Steinem noted:
She taught us, first, to look at the world as if women mattered. Born into an Irish working-class family, Margaret witnessed her mother's slow death, worn out after 18 pregnancies and 11 live births. While working as a practical nurse and midwife in the poorest neighborhoods of New York City in the years before World War I, she saw women deprived of their health, sexuality and ability to care for children already born. Contraceptive information was so suppressed by clergy-influenced, physician-accepted laws that it was a criminal offense to send it through the mail. Yet the educated had access to such information and could use subterfuge to buy "French" products, which were really condoms and other barrier methods, and "feminine hygiene" products, which were really spermicides.
Further on Steinem writes:
One can imagine Sanger's response to the current anti-choice lobby and congressional leadership that opposes abortion, sex education in schools, and federally funded contraceptive programs that would make abortion less necessary; that supports ownership of young women's bodies through parental-consent laws; that limits poor women's choices by denying Medicaid funding; and that holds hostage the entire U.S. billion-dollar debt to the United Nations in the hope of attaching an antiabortion rider. As in her day, the question seems to be less about what gets decided than who has the power to make the decision.
One can also imagine her response to pro-life rhetoric being used to justify an average of one clinic bombing or arson per month -- sometimes the same clinics Sanger helped found -- and the murder of six clinic staff members, the attempted murder of 15 others, and assault and battery against 104 more. In each case, the justification is that potential fetal life is more important than a living woman's health or freedom.
What are mistakes in our era that parallel those of Sanger's? There is still an effort to distort her goal of giving women control over their bodies by attributing such quotes to Sanger as "More children from the fit, less from the unfit -- that is the chief issue of birth control." Sanger didn't say those words; in fact, she condemned them as a eugenicist argument for "cradle competition." To her, poor mental development was largely the result of poverty, overpopulation and the lack of attention to children. She correctly foresaw racism as the nation's major challenge, conducted surveys that countered stereotypes regarding the black community and birth control, and established clinics in the rural South with the help of such African-American leaders as W.E.B. Du Bois and Mary McLeod Bethune.