Why Did Congressional Lobbying Efforts
Fail to Eliminate Contraception from Obscenity Laws, 1916-1937?


      Mary Ware Dennett formed the Voluntary Parenthood League with two objectives in mind. One was to remove language from the Comstock Act of 1873 that prohibited dissemination of contraceptive literature and the other was to educate married couples in family planning. Unlike Margaret Sanger, Dennett did not pursue support from the medical community and she decided against arguing her case on the basis of morality. Instead, she sought legislation that would guarantee women the right to make their own decisions regarding their reproductive fate. But the opposition of Catholics and of the medical community led to the defeat in 1925 of Dennett's proposed legislation, the Cummins-Vaile Bill. Ultimately a 1936 court decision legalized birth control, but within a context that ratified physicians' monopoly in the field.


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