The idea that people needed to be educated about sex probably began with the founding
of the birth control movement by Margaret Sanger, who launched a crusade early in the
20th Century to provide women with birth control information. It was Sanger’s work as a
visiting nurse that turned her interest to sex education and women’s health. Influenced
by anarchist Emma Goldman, she began to advocate the need for family limitation as a
means by which working-class women could liberate themselves from the burden of
In 1914, Sanger published the first issue of The Woman Rebel, which advocated militant
feminism and the right to practice birth control. She also wrote a 16-page pamphlet,
Family Limitation, which provided explicit instructions on the use of contraceptive
methods. In August 1914, Sanger was indicted for violating postal obscenity laws. She
jumped bail in October and set sail for England.
In England she became acquainted with a number of British radicals, feminists, and Neo-Malthusians whose social and economic theories helped her develop broader scientific
and social justifications for birth control. She was also deeply influenced by psychologist
Havelock Ellis and his theories on female sexuality and free love.
In 1915, Sanger returned to the United States. The government’s case against her was
dropped. In 1916, she opened the nation’s first birth control clinic in Brooklyn, New
York. After nine days of operation, the clinic was raided, and Sanger and staff were
arrested. She spent 30 days in jail. However, the publicity surrounding the clinic
provided Sanger with a base of wealthy supporters from which she began to build an
organized birth control movement.
In 1917, Sanger published a new monthly, the Birth Control Review, and in 1921 she
embarked on a campaign to win mainstream support for birth control by founding the
American Birth Control League, the forerunner of Planned Parenthood. She focused her
efforts on gaining support from the medical profession, social workers, and the liberal
wing of the eugenics movement. Havelock Ellis had converted her to the eugenics creed.
She saw birth control as a means of reducing genetically transmitted mental or physical
defects, and supported sterilization for the mentally incompetent. She advocated “more
children for the fit, less from the unfit-that is the chief issue of birth control.”
In 1922, Sanger married oil magnate James Noah H. Slee, thus insuring her financial
independence. Slee, who died in 1943, became the main funder of the birth control
movement. By connecting with the eugenics movement, Sanger was able to gain the
backing of some of America’s wealthiest people.
In 1930, Sanger opened a family planning clinic in Harlem with the approval of the
Negro leadership, including communist W.E.B. DuBois. Beginning in 1939, DuBois also
served on the advisory council for Sanger’s ”Negro Project.” The financial support of
Albert and Mary Lasker made the project possible. In 1966, the year Sanger died, the
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “There is a striking kinship between our movement
and Margaret Sanger’s early efforts.”
From the end of World War II to the present, Planned Parenthood has become the world’s
largest enterprise promoting birth control and abortion. In 1960, the Food and Drug
Administration approved the sale of the birth control pill. In 1961 President Kennedy
defined population growth as a “staggering” problem and formerly endorsed reproductive
research to make new knowledge and methods available worldwide.
In 1961, a Conference on Religion and the Family brought together the medical director
of Planned Parenthood, the director of the National Council of Churches of Christ, and
the leader of the marriage counseling movement in the United States. Out of that meeting
came the idea for creating SIECUS, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of
the United States. It was Dr. Mary Calderone, one of the founders, who introduced the
concept of sexuality in 1964. It encompassed much more than the biological meaning of
sex. Thus, sexuality education replaced the term sex education to emphasize its more
A SIECUS Report (Vol. 27, No.4) states: “In February 1999, SIECUS conducted a
public poll on our Internet site to ask the general public who had the greatest impact in
bringing about a positive change in the way America understands and affirms sexuality.
The top ten, chosen from a list of 100, were Judy Blume, Mary Calderone, Ellen
DeGeneres, Joycelyn Elders, Hugh Hefner, Anita Hill, Magic Johnson, Madonna, Gloria
Steinhem, and Ruth Westheirner. They represent diverse perspectives and views, and
each has helped American think about sexuality in a new and different way.”
Getting back to our chronology, in 1963, the U.N. General Assembly approved a
resolution on population growth and economic development. In that same year, the U.S.
government established the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
(NICHD). Part of its mandate was to support and oversee research in reproductive
science and contraceptive development.
In 1965, the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Griswold v. Connecticut ruled that
Connecticut’s law prohibiting the use of contraceptives by married couples violated a
newly defined right of marital privacy. As a result, ten states liberalized their family
planning laws and began to provide family planning services with tax funds.
In 1969 the National Association for Repeal of Abortion Laws, now known as the
National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, was founded.
In 1970, Congress enacted Title X of the Public Health Services Act, which provided
support and funding for family planning services and educational programs and for
biomedical and behavioral research in reproduction and contraceptive development. Title
X also authorized funding for a Center for Population Research within NICHD. This
marked the first time Congress had ever voted for a separate authorization of family
In that same year, New York state enacted the most progressive abortion law in the
nation, and Planned Parenthood of Syracuse, New York, became the first affiliate to offer
abortion services. In 1973, Humanist Manifesto II was published. It advocated a doctrine of sexual freedom
that clearly clashed with traditional views of sex. The Manifesto states: “In the area of
sexuality, we believe that intolerant attitudes, often cultivated by orthodox religions and
puritanical cultures, unduly repress sexual conduct. The right to birth control, abortion,
and divorce should be recognized. While we do not approve of exploitative denigrating
forms of sexual expression, neither do we wish to prohibit, by law or social sanction,
sexual behavior between consenting adults. The many varieties of sexual exploration
should not in themselves be considered ‘evil.’ Without countenancing mindless
permissiveness or unbridled promiscuity, a civilized society should be a tolerant one.
Short of harming others or compelling them to do likewise, individuals should be
permitted to express their sexual proclivities and pursue their life-styles as they desire ….
Moral education for children and adults is an important way of developing awareness and
sexual maturity.” Among the signers of the Manifesto was Alan F. Guttmacher,
President of Planned Parenthood.
In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that the constitutional right of
privacy extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion, thereby legalizing abortion
throughout the United States. In 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood of
Central Missouri v. Danforth struck down state requirements for parental and spousal
consent for abortion and set aside a state prohibition against saline abortions.
In 1976, the Alan Guttmacher Institute, named after Planned Parenthood’s president,
published 11 Million Teenagers, the first nationally distributed document to focus
attention on the problem of teen pregnancy and childbearing in the United States.
In 1979, the U.S. Supreme Court found the Massachusetts statute restricting minors’
access to abortion unconstitutional. It ruled that if states required minors to obtain
parental consent for an abortion, they must also give minors the alternative of obtaining
the consent of a judge, in confidential proceedings and without first notifying their
In 1981, the Alan Guttmacher Institute published Teenage Pregnancy: The Problem that
Hasn’t Gone Away, an analysis of teen sexuality, contraceptive knowledge and use, and
pregnancy experience. It emphasizes the need for making confidential contraceptive
services accessible to sexually active teens. In 1982, Planned Parenthood published “Sexuality Alphabet,” as tool for sex education.George Grant, in his book, Grand illusions, writes of this publication: “Planned
Parenthood’s sex education programs and materials are brazenly perverse. They are
frequently accentuated with crudely obscene four-letter words and illustrated by
explicitly ribald nudity. They openly endorse aberrant behavior-homosexuality,
masturbation, fornication, incest, and even bestiality-and then they describe that
behavior in excruciating detail.”
In 1953, staffer Lena Levine wrote in Planned Parenthood News: “Our goal is to be ready
as educators and parents to help young people obtain sex satisfaction before marriage.
By sanctioning sex before marriage, we will prevent fear and guilt.”
In 1985, the Alan Guttmacher Institute published its report on Teen Pregnancy in
Industrialized Countries, indicating that the u.S. teen pregnancy rate of 96 per 1,000 is
the highest in the developed world. A two-year study by the National Academy of
Sciences agreed with the AGI study and concluded that “prevention of adolescent
pregnancy should have the highest priority,” and “making contraceptive methods
available and accessible to those who are sexually active and encouraging them to
diligently use these methods is the surest major strategy for pregnancy prevention.”
In 1970, fewer than half of the nation’s school districts offered sex education curricula
and none had school-based birth control clinics. In 1998, more than seventy-five percent
of the districts teach sex education and there are more than one hundred clinics in
operation. Yet the percentage of illegitimate births has only increased during that time,
from a mere fifteen percent to an astonishing fifty-one percent. In California, the public
schools have required sex education for more than thirty years, and yet the state has
maintained one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the nation. (Grant, p. 128)
Meanwhile, the AIDS epidemic, which began with eleven cases in 1979, had grown to
24,000 cases in 1986. In 1993, the number of cases was up to 339,250.
By 1987, Planned Parenthood had become the world’s largest non-government provider
of family planning services. It had also become politically active, joining more than 250
civil rights, civil liberties, religious, labor, education, legal, environmental, health, and
feminist groups that opposed the appointment of conservative Judge Robert Bork to the
U.S. Supreme Court.
This speech was give in 2000
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