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Comstock Law

Margaret Sanger

Margaret Sanger was a trained nurse who worked with poor women in the Lower East Side of New York City. Faced with the effects of unplanned pregnancies on a daily basis, in 1912 she left nursing and began distributing birth control information. Sanger founded the monthly publication The Woman Rebel, which included birth control information. The first issue appeared in March 1914. Upon using the mail for distributing the publication in 1913 she was indicted under the Comstock Law for mailing obscene materials. Authorities confiscated (removed) all copies of the publication.

The publication's issues over the next five months were similarly confiscated. The indictment was withdrawn and in 1917 Sanger founded the National Birth Control League. In the next few years she established the first birth control clinic in Brooklyn, New York. She was arrested and sentenced to thirty days at the Queens penitentiary in New York. In the following years she was arrested and prosecuted many times for distributing birth control information.

In 1921 the National Birth Control League became the American Birth Control League. In 1923 she opened the first permanent birth control clinic in the United States, in New York City. In 1927 Sanger helped organize the first World Population Conference and by 1942 the Birth Control League became the Planned Parenthood Federation. Through the years Sanger wrote many books and articles on birth control.

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