Document 33: Isoo Abe, "The Readers' Letters Asking for Information about Birth Control," published as "Sanji seigen ni tsuki uketotta tegami," in Shō Kazoku, Vol. 1, 13 (May 1922), p. 1. Translated by Kazuhiro Oharazeki.


   One of Sanger's most effective propaganda techniques was to discuss the letters she received from women in need of contraceptive advice. She published a few selected letters in the Birth Control Review and as a collection of letters in a separate volume, entitled Motherhood in Bondage (1928). Here, socialist labor leader, Professor Isoo Abe considers requests for information he has received from women. As in the United States, the most frequent reason for wanting advice was economic.

[p. 1]


   Because I have expressed my opinion on birth control in a fair number of journals for the last several months, many readers, hastily concluding that I am teaching how to practice birth control, have sent me letters. Most of the letters are actually detailed explanations of why [the readers] need birth control. I have learned from these letters what lead the people to believe that birth control is necessary. I will describe here a couple of major reasons.

   The first reason is poverty. I have received letters from both middle-class and working-class people. Some are facing difficulties making ends meet because they have too many children, and others are living in fear of falling into that condition. They are not afraid of troubles or hardships that they might face in raising and educating their children. But if the number of children increases to three, four, five, or six, parents who have a strong sense of responsibility cannot be unmindful of this [situation]. They themselves may be able to endure poverty, but they cannot stand seeing their children sinking into poverty. I cannot refrain from expressing sympathy with people who feel the need for birth control for the difficulties of life.

   The second reason is the protection of mothers' health, and there are a number of reasons to sympathize with this [cause]. One man married a woman in robust health, but after having four children in five years, she ruined her health. If she becomes pregnant again, it is possible that she will lose her life. The letters I have received include many similar stories.

   Under the circumstances I described above, should we consider practicing birth control a dishonest act? I think anyone can make a judgment on this by using his or her common sense.

   Nevertheless, quite a few people in this country, while feeling the need for birth control, feel ashamed of practicing it. Judging from more than 200 letters I have received, nine out of ten [writers] find it a shame to ask about how to prevent conception. If they plan to have an abortion or kill newborn babies, it is not only a shame but also an illegal act. But birth control, which is practiced today, is for preventing conception, and therefore is neither a crime nor something people should feel ashamed of. If birth control is dishonorable, it must also be morally wrong. As long as small families benefit children and improve mothers' health, there is no reason for us to be ashamed of practicing birth control.

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