• U.S.

Medicine: Birth Control Raid

3 minute read

A patrol wagon growled up West 18th Street, Manhattan, last week and stopped back of St. Francis Xavier’s parochial school. Pupils crowded to the windows and watched patrolmen enter the semi-basement of No. 46, a brownstone house. Soon appeared a dozen agitated women. Some carried infants. Then six more women with strained, angry faces walked out of the door. Policemen with wastepaper baskets full of surgical instruments, rubber devices and index cards in their arms, herded the six women into the patrol wagon. The wagon smelled horribly. The women sat down on its benches.Policemen posted themselves on guard. The wagons growled away, angrily jeered by the women on the sidewalk. Thus was the Birth Control ClinicalResearch Bureau (TIME, March 18) raided last week. A policewoman, one Josephine McNamara, mother of two grown children, had reported that the clinic was giving out demoralizing information and advice.

She had secured her evidence by pretending, under a false name, to be the mother of three small children, the wife of a drunkard, a woman whose health was endangered by too frequent childbearing. Clinic doctors had examined her and decided her state needed the protection of contraceptives. The doctors were Hannah M. Stone and Elizabeth Pissoort. It was they who were arrested last week, together with their three nurses.

The sixth woman in the patrol was Mrs. Margaret Sanger Slee. The incident was the first time since 1921 that she had been “given a ride” by the police. At that time Rt. Rev. Patrick Joseph Hayes had had her arrested for giving a birth control lecture in Manhattan. He was then Roman Catholic archbishop of New York. Now he is, besides, a cardinal, and more opposed than ever to contraception. During the past year he has preached with renewed vigor against the birth control movement. It was not at his eminent in stance that Mrs. Sanger went to court last week. She was not even arrested. She rode along to encourage the practicing protagonists in the idea which she believes a social imperative. Dr. Hannah M. Stone, 34, was the “martyr” this time. At the jail and police court, John Hogan, prosecutor, made some fuss over granting the five women prisoners bail. Magistrate Abraham Rosenbluth finally let them free for $300 each. Later in the week they appeared before his bench for trial. His chair was empty for an hour and one-half while the accused waited with two dozen notable doctors, clergymen and sociologists, who had attended to give help. Finally the judge bustled in, wearing a sack coat and a blank expression. Dr. Stone trembled, a silver pin glinting on her white waist. Policewoman McNamara testified. She described her physical condition, her sexual history, her lies and experiences at the birth control clinic. She blushed. The judge adjourned the case. And so nothing was decided, last week. Hearst Editor Arthur Brisbane, oldtime sentimentalist about Motherhood, made this comment to his prolific mass-public : “There was only one birth control clinic in New York. The police found it and closed it. On the other hand, police authorities say there are 32,000 speakeasies in New York. . . . Drunkenness is responsible for many undesirable births. The speakeasies are not raided.” Editor Brisbane exaggerated. There are nine other accredited sources for contraceptive knowledge and appliances in New York City. In the U. S. there are 29 such clinics.

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