Paving the Way for Title X:

How Protestants Swallowed the Pill and Evangelicals ‘Out-Libertined’ the Mainline Every great president since Abraham Lincoln has learned that political success requires uniting one’s party and splitting the opposition. In the same way, the success of Margaret Sanger in transforming American attitudes toward contraception, without which the government’s forty-year campaign for birth or population control under the guise of “family planning” would not have been possible, has a lot to due with her strategy of splitting her opposition. When Sanger launched the American Birth Control League in 1921, she faced fierce resistance not only on the part of the Catholic church but also among all varieties of American Protestants, including fundamentalists and modernists of the northern denominations. The Episcopal church’s position was typical; the Lambeth Conference of Bishops of 1908 and 1920 had delivered warnings against the use of contraception as well as the false teaching that the conjugal act was an end in itself.[1] In essence, the foe that Sanger would need to split was not a Catholic one; it was the widely shared Christian consensus against birth control that not even the Reformation had breached. And split her opposition she did. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the atheist Sanger exploited the anxieties of American Protestants who feared Catholic immigration, winning over liberal Protestants with an appeal to the “science” of soft eugenics and the “health effects” of birth control as a way to build the Kingdom of God in America. Working through the wives of Protestant clergyman on both sides of the Atlantic, Sanger was instrumental in persuading the bishops at the Lambeth Conference of 1930 to reverse course and endorse contraception, as well as the Federal Council of Churches (FCC) to do likewise in 1931. While the FCC endorsement triggered a revolt among its member denominations, by the end of the 1930s, opposition to birth control was
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