Departmental Papers (Sociology)

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Book Chapter

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Family Planning

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Early proponents of contraception among American religious groups were staunch eugenicists who promoted birth control in the hopes of curtailing the "runaway fertility" of poor Catholic and Jewish immigrants. By the early 1930s, their campaign to legalize contraception was largely successful, but eugenicists would soon go from being a sign of progressive politics and enlightened scientific understanding to a dirty word associated with Hitler. By examining the statements of all of the early liberalizers on contraception from 1920 to 1965, this paper demonstrates that although these groups purged their statements on contraception of the word eugenics by the end of WWII, the fertility of "poor others" remained their focus for the next few decades. Talk of "race suicide" changed to talk of "responsible parenthood" as their focus moved away from the whitening Irish, Italian, and Jewish immigrants to the poor in the Third World and Americans in the inner cities.

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© 2018 The Author(s). Licensee IntechOpen. This chapter is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


religion, contraception, eugenics, world population



Date Posted: 25 June 2018

This document has been peer reviewed.