Japanese liberals and many in the press vociferously protested and at times ridiculed their government's decision to ban Sanger, citing free speech and arguing that a civil discussion on birth control did not pose a threat to the nation's social order. Even opposition voices in the Japanese press, citing the immorality of birth control and raising the specter of race suicide, acknowledged the problems of overpopulation and differential fertility and seemed to welcome a debate. This editorial welcomes the issue of Sanger's entry as the start of a full-scale debate over the socio-economic implications of overpopulation.
When the news came from San Francisco to the effect that Mr. Yata, Japanese Consul-General there, refused to vise the passport of Mrs. Sanger, who is well known as the advocate of birth-control, previous to her departure for Japan, a section of our people was surprised and at the same time indignant at the ignorance and nervousness of our authorities, but the matter has since been settled by the reconsideration of their former decision by our authorities that they would permit the landing of the lady in Japan on condition that she would not publish her theories and principles during her stay here.
So far as we know, the basis of the opinion on birth-control held by Mrs. Sanger is not placed on a simple social policy. She maintains that birth-control is a means for the self-preservation of the people of the laboring classes in view of the fact that the prolificness is a grave menace to their living and, in consequence, their boys and girls will suffer from want of nutrition and become cripples, causing annoyances and troubles to the State, and that even the healthy and the strong of these classes are all made use of by the so-called governing classes and sometimes compelled to sacrifice their lives for the promotion of the interests of the latter. From such viewpoints, she is tireless in propagating the actual means for effecting birth-control.[A]
We are confident that no government will allow her to carry on such propaganda for some time to come. Even in the United States which takes pride in the freedom of the people in the expression of their views and opinions, she is looked upon as a sort of "undesirable" person. Perhaps, our authorities are taking the same view. Those who take their stand against the propaganda of Mrs. Sanger assert that, in the event of the use of contraceptives becoming a general practice in the world, they will be abused not by the people of the laboring classes but by those of the upper classes or by bachelors and spinsters who are apt to feel the prod of the flesh, and the result would be the emancipation of the flesh and the decadence of public morals.
We will not deny that there is some truth in this censorious remark, but we must not lose sight of the tendency growing among educated young people against procreation brought about by the so-called freedom of love, their economic independence, the free selection of their occupations and the improvement of their lots. Even without seeing the case in Germany, we are conscious that birth-control is taking shape into a concrete question in the world. Optimists say that surplus population can be dispensed with by the subtle play of the forces of Nature, but the actual realities of the present do not admit the people to pin their faith on such vague and empty opinion.
Our authorities may well demand Mrs. Sanger to remain silent on her views considering that what she propagates has a strong leaning toward socialism and birth-control itself undermines the foundation of our society, but they must not forget that many of our people are in unity with the principles and opinions advanced by her. We advise the authorities concerned to go deep down to the root of the question and control the thoughts and ideas disseminated by Mrs. Sanger. To try to regulate popular thoughts solely by means of laws and regulations is nothing less than absurdity.
A. The author is probably basing these summations of Sanger's thoughts on Woman and the New Race (New York, N.Y.: Truth Publishing Company, 1920; translated and published in Japan in December 1921), specifically Chapter 5: "Large Families," in which Sanger writes that, "Excessive childbearing" is "one of the most prolific causes of ill health in women," and that "large families reared in poverty" increase "the probability of a child handicapped by a weak constitution, an overcrowded home, inadequate food and care, and possibly a deficient mental equipment, winding up in prison or an almshouse. . . ." She argues that these are the children that supply the child labor market, the factories, and the armies that fight wars. Sanger did not advocate birth control as merely a means of self-preservation for the working-classes, but rather as the most immediate means for achieving emancipation (Callahan, "Dangerous Devices," p. 68; Sanger, Woman and the New Race, pp. 58-59, 63, 166.)
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