On Planned Parenthood:

A Criticism of The Freeman's Editorial Stance

Harry Gunnison Brown

[Reprinted from The Freeman, May, 1940]

Will you have a truly forgiving spirit if I join my academic colleague, Professor Glenn Hoover, in a little criticism of The Freeman?

It seems to me that the paper has been unnecessarily and irrelevantly and, even, inconsistently eager to poke ridicule at planned families and birth control, -- at any rate by implication. Or have I misinterpreted the essential burden of Oscar Geiger's article and of the March verses on planned parenthood? . . .

The advocates of birth control are not fighting to have government plan our families and so interfere with our freedom. On the contrary, what they are fighting for is to have government allow men and women to get information, i.e., to have government remove restrictions on freedom. So how can a magazine which represents itself as opposed to dictatorship and opposed to regimentation and as striving to make men free -- "free land, free trade, free men" -- make a point (apparently) of joining with those who want to use jails and policemen's clubs to forcibly shut knowledge away from men and women who need this knowledge to safeguard their family happiness?

Maybe that is not what The Freeman means at all, but I'm afraid more than one reader has got the distinct feeling that its editorial policy is in favor of government force to prevent people from learning how -- by contraception -- they can adjust their families to their incomes and their health and strength. Surely it cannot be said that -- with single tax -- we could all advantageously have families of thirteen!

That The Freeman has not said all this, I know. But since the real fight of the birth control advocates is a fight for freedom, freedom for physicians to explain things to people, a criticism of them, even by innuendo, looks like joining their enemies and like favoring force, therefore, to muzzle any doctor who might dare to tell distressed women how NOT to have thirteen children in thirteen years and still not deprive their husbands and themselves of the exercise of the sex instinct.

It is a fact, o£ course, that a clinic supported by taxes is a form of "stat-ism." But so are schools -- and these clinics, which are mainly to give information, are a kind of school -- and. so are state hospitals -- and these are, in a sense, hospitals. Government spends money -- which it gets by taxation -- for weather information, for agricultural research -- and even to maintain state universities like the University of Missouri where I am paid to teach economics and, therefore, to expound the arguments for land-value taxation! So with all this spending of state money, why pick on money spent, not to force people but just to give them information which they need more because the law has so long hidden it from them? . . .

The Freeman is not interested in birth control, except when it is advocated as a cure for poverty, and then only to show it isn't. The Freeman knows nothing about contraceptives, and cares less. The Freeman is opposed, on Georgist principles, to governmental restrictions on the dissemination of knowledge. The Freeman is likewise opposed to the government's taking a paternalistic -- or maternalistic -- interest in the purely private matter of having or not having families, and particularly to the use of tax money to indulge its parental proclivities. - Editor