THE STORY OF PLANNED PARENTHOOD—A PILLAR OF REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH RIGHTS FOR THE LAST 100 YEARS—SPEAKS TO THE PUSH-AND PULL OF PROGRESS AND RESISTANCE, VIOLENCE, AND EVOLUTION. WRITER JULIA MEAD INTERVIEWS THE MELANEY LINTON, CEO AND PRESIDENT OF PLANNED PARENTHOOD GULF COAST.
Our heroine grew up in a large, poor family from upstate New York. Young Margaret watched her mother become pregnant again and again, eighteen times in total. Eleven live births, seven miscarriages. At the age of fifty, after spending most of her adult life pregnant, Margaret’s mother died of tuberculosis. Her home town was split in two by the Chemung river, and as an adult Margaret remembered “all the workers and poor people of the factory”—including her family—“lived on the flats near the river surrounding or near the factory, while the owners and people of wealth lived on the hills away from the dirt, noise, and poverty. I noticed too, that the people down below had large families, and many children, while those on the hills had few.” She knew from childhood that women whose minds and bodies were wrecked by pregnancy after pregnancy, were women at the bottom of the class ladder.
In 1936, after two decades of fighting, something big happened: the Comstock Law was liberalized. It became legal to talk about contraception in public, and women flocked to clinics offering information. In the 1930s, unlike when Sanger first started her campaign, American women could vote (of course, Sanger was “ardent for Suffrage, for women’s emancipation” far before it was fashionable). But perhaps even more influential was the Great Depression. Many American families were struggling desperately to feed the children they already had, and having any more would be