100 years after 1st birth control clinic opened, conservatives still hate freedom of choice

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Outside the crumbling Brooklyn building where the first U.S. birth control clinic opened 100 years ago, Alexander Sanger reflected on the move that landed his grandmother in jail and fueled a controversy over women’s reproductive rights that has raged ever since.

“This is where it all started,” said the grandson of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger in his first visit to the Brownsville, Brooklyn, site where she started her clinic in 1916.

“She threw down the gauntlet and said, ‘Preventing women from contraception is inhumane,'” said Sanger…

Some of the reproductive rights battles that Margaret Sanger fought a century ago were remarkably similar to the challenges facing Planned Parenthood today, particularly organized religion’s objection to sex education, her grandson said…

The religious-liberty fight over contraception is back in the U.S. Supreme Court, which will rule by July on whether religious groups deserve a blanket exemption so that they do not have to pay for their employees’ contraceptive coverage as mandated under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act…

Opponents have waged a decades-long string of attacks on abortion providers, the most recent in November when a gunman killed three people at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic. Since 1993, there have been 11 murders and 26 attempted murders due to anti-abortion violence…

Planned Parenthood itself is in the crosshairs, with the Republican-led Congress voting as recently as this week to cut all of its federal funding, although Obama, a Democrat, has vowed to veto the measure when it reaches his desk.

A USA Today poll in December found Americans overwhelmingly oppose cutting off federal funds for Planned Parenthood. Some 59 percent of Republicans and 89 percent of Democrats are against the idea…

The controversy was well under way 100 years ago when Sanger and her sister, both trained nurses whose mother died young after giving birth to 11 children, opened the clinic. They fitted women for diaphragms, which were the most effective birth control available at the time but were illegal under the federal Comstock Law against distributing materials that could be used for contraception.

One patient turned out to be an undercover police officer, and nine days after the clinic opened in the low-income Jewish and Italian neighborhood, it was shut down, and Sanger was under arrest

Today about half of the 6.6 million pregnancies annually in the United States are unintended, a higher proportion than in Europe…

“It’s still the poorest of the poor who are having more children than they want, who are having children earlier than other women, who are not getting access to preventive methods when they need them – whether it’s in Brownsville or Rio de Janeiro,” Sanger said. “That same struggle was my grandmother’s struggle, and it is mine.”

The fight remains the same, the enemies of knowledge and progress remain. People who fear education, freedom, individual liberty – diminishing numbers continue to gather inside the mouth of the little intellectual cave they live within and try to hold off their fears with chants and weapons.

The rest of us embrace the dawn.

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