September 30, 2015
Periodically, we see a woman in the news asking, with incredulity, what year it is. Do we really, in this year (2012 or 2015 or…), have to be asking this question or fighting this battle? Wasn’t this resolved long ago? Haven’t certain rights been won—like the right to vote and the right to sexual autonomy—so that we can use them as bedrock upon which to build a future, secure in our knowledge that equality and America go hand-in-hand? Well, yes. And no. Progress comes in waves, and after each wave there is a counter-wave. Because progress works this way, we hear and see the same ideas—and fight the same battles—many times in a century.
September 15, 2015
In 1873, Congress passed the Comstock Act as the result of the crusading of one man—Anthony Comstock—who believed that birth control led to far too much sexiness and sexual enjoyment in America, and ought to be outlawed. The Comstock Act defined contraceptives as obscene and illicit, and made it illegal to send birth control through the mail or to cross state lines with it. The act spawned similar laws—known collectively as the Comstock Laws—in twenty-four states. Fortunately for American women, Margaret Sanger believed passionately that a woman had a right to her own sexuality, which included both sexual enjoyment (an important component of sexual health) and reproductive choice. Margaret Sanger was the answer to Anthony Comstock—in 1916 she was arrested for opening the first birth control clinic in America. A few years later, in 1921, Sanger founded the American Birth Control League, and in 1923 she founded the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau, which was renamed the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1942.