In the Spirit of Sanger

Margaret Sanger, founder of the historical dissident publication The Women Rebel, had a spirit we need to somehow reincarnate. Without an active voice like hers that led the Birth Control Movement so many decades ago, we might allow the current war on women to succeed.

In the past few weeks, a disturbing trend of anti-women, anti-choice legislation across the nation on local, statewide and national levels has begun to emerge as the centerpiece of political discourse, effectively (and for those whose authority and decisions orchestrate the economy, conveniently) distracting us from urgent discussions — this includes a controversial bill stripping public employees of collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin, including the privatization of essential services like heating and electricity; massive protests against regimes in the Middle East and North Africa; the list could really go and on.

Instead of organizing our political and democratic energies into these crucial areas of interest, governments across the United States are discussing how to cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood, gut the already-gutted welfare state, the majority of whose recipients are women with children, and redefine rape to exclude those who were raped via coercive action (i.e. date rape drugs, alcohol, or manipulation of mental health) from having an abortion if they cannot afford one. This war needs to be stopped, and Sanger would have something to say about it.

Her work redefined the Birth Control Movement not only by igniting it, but by extending it to those of lower classes. Sanger’s life may have been couched by the comforts of upper-middle class white privilege, but her fierce determination to bring women of all classes and colors safe, effective, affordable birth control was by all means commendable.

While Sanger certainly was not the only advocate worth noting for women’s rights, I bring her up in an effort to somehow channel that spirit. The debates revolving around the most cost-effective way to strip women of their rights is preposterous and outlandish. Planned Parenthood only uses three percent of its services on abortions  while providing a number of services to poorer women for free, including breast cancer exams. This access to health care is not only necessary to ensure the underprivileged in America some kind of accessible treatment, but to reaffirm that women are first-class citizens of worth in this country — a stigmatized position that has, unfortunately, not fully evaporated even since Sanger’s Era of pre-secondwave feminism.

This post is a call to re-engage – – to spark the kind of activism and patriotism Sanger showed during her years of service to the country as a spokesperson for women everywhere. The vigor and strength of Sanger and her supporters needs to be reengaged to create a  fourth-,fifth-whatever number you want to affix it with-round of feminism — one that does not accept unscrupulous, unwarranted attacks on its women.

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