The politics of population: birth control and the eugenics movement.

L. Gordon

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The birth control movement and the population control movement became inseparable in people's minds during the early years of the birth control movement, led by Margaret Sanger in 1915. Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger defied obscenity laws by disseminating information on contraception. The birth control movement was concerned with individual choice and reproductive self determination. Population control referred to a large-scale social policy of limiting births throughout a whole society or in certain groups for the purpose of changing economic, ecological and/or political conditions. Population control ideas were dominated by eugenics and marred by racism and nativism in the United States. Unfortunately, eugenic ideas and population control were often confused with birth control, especially by poor, lower class women. Real democracy in population control requires that women, not men, have the reproductive choice. It is the material basis for liberation. If a woman's desire for children interferes with a reasonable and democratic social plan to lower birth rates, the woman should be offered educational and economic opportunities as an alternative to childbearing. Eugenics and imperialism were closely related in American and English history, focussing first on one group of immigrants then another.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)61-98
    Number of pages38
    JournalRadical America
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - 1974

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Medicine


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