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Birth Control Essay, Research Paper

The dilemma of unwanted pregnancy has faced the human species as far back in history as the day man found out that there was a connection between sexual intercourse and conceiving a baby. To solve it, many methods were used — some disagreeable, some dangerous and many ineffective. Fortunately, today for the first time in history, a choice of contraceptives is available that is, safe, convenient, and effective.

Much difference of opinion about the moral correctness of sex without the possibility of becoming pregnant, surrounds this subject. Since the Middle Ages, much of religious thinking has held that the only proper reason for sexual intercourse was procreation. Thus, anything that interfered with fertility was immoral. Under the 1892 Criminal Code, birth control was obscene, “tending to corrupt morals.” Unless an accused could prove that the contraceptive had been used “for the public good,” that person was liable to serve a two year jail sentence. Contraception was opposed by pronatalist business, religious and political interest groups. Their attacks on the “birth controllers” were frequent and often defamatory.

Nevertheless, by the 1920’s, the 1892 law was being questioned, and family size among those in higher socioeconomic standards were shrinking. Informed couples were able to limit their fertility by “under the counter” purchases of contraceptives, or with materials for homemade methods. However, high fertility rates persisted among the less educated and poor. Birth controllers insisted that birth control should be available to everyone. Scattered groups of determined volunteers made referrals to courageous physicians, who were not afraid of being arrested, or provided the information themselves to married women. In 1921, Margaret Sanger, founded the American Birth Control League, even after she had been imprisoned back in 1916, for encouraging women to practice contraception and opening the first birth control clinic in Brooklyn, New York. She never gave up because she always had the image of a young woman dying because of a criminally induced abortion in the back of her mind. She believed that birth control was the best way to sustain from unwanted pregnancies and was determined to prove it to the world. Shortly after, in 1932, Hamilton Birth Control Clinic was opened and directed by Elizabeth Bagshaw. Despite opposition from fellow physicians and the clergy, Elizabeth Bagshaw accepted the position and spent the next thirty years of her life working with dedicated volunteers to provide women with inexpensive and reliable contraceptives.

I too am a firm believer in birth control. I believe that every child born should be a child who will feel wanted and cared for. Birth control can free women from terminating pregnancies and therefore greatly reduce the number of abortions each year. Birth control can improve marital relations, maternal and child health and family welfare. Not everyone today is capable of supporting three or four children. Therefore why not limit the number of children you have and better support your family? There is also the factor of overpopulation. Many who favor birth control feel that limiting family size is necessary for a better life. Increases in the world population are beginning to threaten the supply of our natural resources, and this is a prime concern to many. In India the medical profession has been called on to play a major role in implementing India’s family planning program. This involves giving advice to women and married couples about birth control and sterilization techniques. By doing this, they hope to achieve a slightly lower birth rate.

I also believe that young teenage girls should be aware of contraceptives. Today, out of wedlock births are becoming increasingly common. Each year approximately 318,000 unmarried women conceived a child. Of these 318,000, forty — four percent were girls between the ages of thirteen and nineteen. This number astonishes me. Teenage girls should be experiencing life and all it has to offer, not changing diapers and heating baby bottles. At least if they are planning to be sexually active, they should use some form of contraception, not only for themselves, but to protect the innocent child that might enter the world. I do not think that a young teenage year old girl is ready to take on the responsibilities that women usually take on at around twenty — six or twenty — seven. A child needs to be clothed, sheltered, loved and protected. How can a young girl provide all these things when she is still in need of them herself?

In San Francisco, the aim is to prevent sexually active teenagers before the first baby arrives. In 1967, the city’s Planned Parenthood Association — which came from Margaret Sanger’s American Birth Control League — opened a Teen Clinic. This was due to the numerous requests from teenagers for sex education and contraception. It meets twice a week after school hours. In the first two years, more than six hundred girls participated in the group discussions. Among them, seventy — five needed pregnancy testing and counseling, while a total of four hundred and seventy-six girls received contraceptive advice and services. During these two years there were only ten unplanned pregnancies.

Slowly, but surely, many people are realizing that birth control is an effective way to ensure that there are no unwanted pregnancies. In 1961, the National Council of Churches in the United States, proclaimed that birth control to limit family size should be permitted. The method chosen by a couple was declared to be their own decision. Also, it is no secret that “unwanted” children seldom receive the necessary love and care. For this reason many people maintain that it should be a woman’s sole decision if and when she wants to bear children. Many different religions are eventually coming to terms with contraception methods. Eastern Orthodoxy has traditionally only permitted abstinence, but has not hindered the distribution of contraceptives. In Islam, the Koran advocates marriage and procreation, but has no clear objection to birth control, allowing a liberal interpretation. Unfortunately, the Roman Catholic Church condemns all forms of contraception except for the Natural Family Planning, which is based on the woman’s natural monthly menstrual cycle. The rate of success depends on a couple’s willingness to observe a safe schedule of intercourse.

Today birth control is also accepted by many who feel that abortion is immoral, believing it to be the taking of a life, and therefore wrong for any reason. I agree with this entirely because I believe it is wrong to terminate an innocent baby’s life because of your mistake. However, in Japan, the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries, abortion is the most used method of birth control and it is not regarded as a moral issue.

Although consensus has not been reached on the range of birth control methods that society should offer to individual members, the rights of couples to determine the number of their children is almost universally endorsed. It is understood that we do not live in a time where children can be raised by the dozen. Throughout the world, advantages and disadvantages of specific methods of birth control, thoughtful judgments about ethics, and further evolution in medical and scientific knowledge will continue to be important to the welfare of the family, of individual nations, and of the entire globe.


1. Encyclopedia Britannica

?1993 by Encyclopedia Britannica

Volume 15

“Birth Control”

pp 113-119

2. Internet Access


3. Teenage Medicine

By August Greenbalt

? 1970 by Augusta Greenbalt

pp 96-111; 124

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