Reforming Sex: The German Movement for Birth Control and Abortion Reform, 1920-1950

By Atina Grossmann | Go to book overview

— two —
"Prevent: Don't Abort"

The Medicalization and
Politicization of Sexuality

Birth Control, The Challenge of the Times.

Workers! . . . Girls! . . . Women! . . . let yourself be counseled and avoid abortions that can destroy your bodies.... Proletarians! The more you love your children, the more you should think about their welfare and your responsibility! Come to us! We can help you prevent unhappiness!

RV leaflet, ca. 1930I

Prevention of pregnancy belongs in the hands of the doctor. 2

In 1932, the Berlin gynecologist Hans Lehfeldt published an article in which he documented the remarkable growth of what he termed "a people's movement" (Volksbewegung) for birth control and sex education during the twelve years of the Weimar Republic. The appearance of such an essentially favorable report written by a physician in a journal edited by the eugenicist and social hygienist Hans Harmsen was a sign of how broad and diverse this social movement for the reform of sexual and procreative regulations and practices had become. 3 Lay leagues claimed over 150,000 members—including sympathetic physicians—and their influence stretched well beyond those who formally joined. Their journals, meetings, and makeshift counseling centers were highly visible throughout much of Germany, and birth control and sex education services were available in numerous municipal and health insurance clinics. 4

An eclectic coalition of political actors constituted this sex reform movement (Sexualreformbewegung). Some came from commercial leagues selling birth control products; others were members of the Communist and Social Democratic parties or smaller working-class political groups. They were joined by representatives of the medical profession, state agencies, and the international birth control movement, embodied by the globe-trotting American birth controller Margaret Sanger. All were united by the convic

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