Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Books I'm Reading: Margaret Sanger: Her Life in Her Words, Continued

On page 280, Miriam Reed quotes Sanger as writing to a granddaughter "H. G. Wells said I was the greatest woman in the world." Reed goes on to agree "And so she was."

p. 282 concentrates on the Catholic Church as the enemy.
Throughout her life, Margaret Sanger waged a lonely and unacknowledged battle against conservative forces that would permanently subjugate women. The force most fiercely conservative in the West was and is that of the Vatican . . .. The steady assault by the Roman Catholic hierarchy on a woman's right to control her fertility and on Margaret Santer as the figurehead for that right has never lessened.

Her life didn't seem very lonely to me. She was popular, had several children and husbands, travelled and spoke and was welcomed into the homes of liberal intellectuals all over the world.

The author sees the fight against abortion as a Catholic ploy to keep women downtrodden. In the paragraphs that follow the above quote, she writes that "the need for freely available contraception and the dangers of overpopulation ... have been deliberately subsumed by the Vatican and its New Right subsidiaries into a sentimental and vicious debate over abortion."

Even though Sanger was generally against abortion and saw contraception as a way to prevent the "need" for abortion (while allowing that in some cases abortion would be justified), Reed is strongly pro-abortion: "Through an ongoing public education effore, an unaware and sentimental public has been adroitly manipulated, the rights of the mother and the symbiotic status of the unborn child ignored, and the developing fetus, aven as a collection of undifferentiated cells, has become a TV-perfect "baby"--this tactic to be recognized for what it is: a prelude to enforced motherhood. .. . . [T]he position set out by the Vatican in the Humanae Vitae of 1968, which is [sic] alterably opposed to contraception and abortion, increasingly permeates United States government policy." p. 281.

I cannot see any evidence of any support anywhere outside of official Church documents against contraception, and the author does not give any evidence for her claim.

p. 282: "How dare an arrogant state or pietistic religionists interfere with a woman's right to her life?"
Later on the page, the author claims that is a quirk of the feminine spirit that women choose to have smaller families. "The feminine spirit . . . demands that woman take control of their lives."

From my lived experience, I believe that sex without love, commitment, or children, divorces women from themselves and from their own deepest needs. Calvin Trillin wrote recently that contrary to Hugh Hefner's assertions that free love is good for women too, when Playboy bunnies were asked what is important to them, they put having a family among their top goals in life. Trillin wrote, free love is neither free nor love.

From the endnotes, p. 374: II. 42. Overpopulation and the Draper Request, note 12, Reed has the following quotation, which I believe still sums up the current official teachings of the Catholic Church: "On November 25, 1959, the Catholic bishops of the United States released this statement from Washington, D. C.: "United States Catholics believe that the promotion of artificial birth control is a morally, humanly, psychologicallly, and politically disastrous approach to the population problem. . . . THey will not support any public assistance, either at home or abroad, to promote artificial birth prevention, abortion, assistance, either at home or abroad, to promote artificial birth preventions, abortion, or sterilization, whether through direct aid or by means of international organizations." "Statement by Roman Catholic Bishops of U.S. on Birth Control," "Special to the New York Times," New York Times, November 26, 1959, p. 43. However, I do not think the bishops of today would have the courage to come out against contraception. We are being taught in the San Jose Diocese's leadership course that individual conscience trumps the Magisterium on artificial birth control and every other issue (except one's that the moral theologians have in their list of evils, like slavery or burning people at the stake).

Just want to not an important document that affect many people in my generation, called the Population Bomb, which is mentioned in Reed's book. It was written in the 50s by Hugh Moore.

And one more thing to record, the strikingly "modern" language used in a cartoon published in 1919 in Birth Control Review titled HER LEGAL STATUS. A woman struggles to move forward while bent to the ground under a roll of documents labeled LAWS CONTROLLING WOMEN'S BODIES, while a tiny policeman labeled THE STATE walks ahead of her with his upraised club.

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