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Illinois Birth Control League

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Illinois Birth Control League


Illinois Birth Control League
Stopes, Marie
Field, James Alfred


In July, 1924 the League opened a space on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, where physicians could give instruction and advice about birth control to patients. A second site was later opened on Lincoln St. to serve the same purpose.


Sanger, Margaret, ed. International Aspects of Birth Control, Vol. 1: Proceedings of the Sixth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference, (New York, 1925), pp. 154-156


American Birth Control League




Collens, Jackie (created stub)
De Bel, Heather (transcription)


American Birth Control League became Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1939. Contact Planned Parenthood for permission to reprint.








Chicago, Illinois

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The Illinois Birth Control League was organised in January, 1917. Prof. James A. Field was President, Mrs. Benjamin E. Page was Secretary, and Mr. Max Loeb was Treasurer. There was an Executive Committee of fourteen and a large Council composed of eminent physicians and other people of importance in the community. The objects of the League were stated as follows:

1. To develop an honest and intelligent opinion on the subject of Birth Control.

2. To co-operate to secure the amendment of the Federal Penal Code so that contraceptive information shall no longer be classed with obscenity and excluded from the mails.

3. Under proper safeguards to make available scientific information concerning the methods of Birth Control.

The League held several meetings to discuss these objects and to educate public opinion. It secured an opinion from the State's Attorney, General Brundage, in February, 1917, to the effect that no Illinois statute prohibited a physician from giving advice on contraception. But the greatest service rendered by the League was in sending Professor Field to a hearing at Springfield in March, 1917, to argue successfully against legislation which proposed to make it a crime to give Birth Control information under any conditions. Through the war, and for several years afterwards, the League existed as a loosely knitted organization to be called on in case of emergency.

On December 11, 1922, profiting by the experience of the Neo-Malthusian League and Dr. Marie Stopes in London, the Illinois Birth Control League decided to open a free clinic where physicians should give instruction and advice on the subject of contraception to married people. A Committee of four was appointed to make plans for this clinic. At a later meeting the Committee was enlarged and it was given authority as the Parents' Clinic Committee of the Illinois Birth Control League to raise money and to carry on the work of organisation and operation.

The Parents' Clinic Committee stated that the ends it had in view were to reduce infant mortality, to save women from the strain of too frequent pregnancies with all the attendant evils in family life, to make parenthood voluntary rather than accidental, to increase the feeling of responsibility of the parents for the welfare of their existing children, in short, to make a better and happier society. Dr. Yarros was appointed chief of staff, rooms were found at 1347 N. Lincoln St., and all legal requirements were met, such as getting the neighboring property owners' consent. When the Committee applied to Dr. Herman N. Bundesen, City Health Officer, for the necessary license it was refused on the grounds that the purpose of the clinic was "against public policy, tends to corrupt morals, and is unlawful." Following his refusal, the Vice-President of the Parents' Clinic Board, Mrs. Carpenter, petitioned for the issuance of a writ of mandamus against the Mayor and the Commissioner of Health of the City of Chicago to compel them to grant the license. The suit was argued before Judge Harry M. Fisher of the Circuit Court of cook County by Mr. Harold L. Ickes and Mrs. George Packard, with testimony given in favor of the petitioner by the most eminent members of the medical profession. The decision of Judge Fisher in favor of the petitioner was a notable one. The city appealed and after long-delay, the Appellate Court - without going into the merits of the case - upheld Dr. Bundesen's narrow technical right to refuse a license.

This legal fight had value in educating public opinion and in bringing out unexpected sources of support for the idea that the clinic embodied. And although the decision of the Appellate Court makes it impossible to operate a free clinic, yet the same service that it was planned to give in the Parents' Clinic can be given for a reasonable fee under the same auspices. So while the Parents' Clinic Committee was carrying on the fight in the courts, the Illinois Birth Control League in July, 1924, opened rooms at 308 N. Michigan Avenue, where it rented office space to Dr. Yarros and employed other physicians to give Birth Control instruction and advice to patients who were sent by social agencies or by other physicians, a small fee being charged. Since July 1st, 460 patients have been taken care of. The League had opened another office at 1347 N. Lincoln St., as Medical Center No. 2.

Our work from the beginning has been hampered by the constant legal fight, but the Committee feels that the League is slowly making a place for itself in Illinois. We have received the endorsement of all the large Women's Clubs and are getting most helpful co-operation from all of the social agencies.