ROGRESSIVE " Bodies and Societies, filled with an en thusiasm for promoting the decadence of our country through the gradual extinction of the family, have used every means to obtain legislative action through Parliament for this purpose.
Strange to say, Society, orthodox Labour and Communists were united in this campaign. Smart Society ladies, expensively and beautifully dressed, cul
BY C. W. de Normanville, V.J.B.
tured in demeanour and voice, stood on the same platform as the simple workman. They thought their more humble sisters should possess the same licence as they had long exercised. They had a birth-rate round about 10 per 1,000, and if only the working classes would rival that, they would be more prosperous, the country more prosperous, Society, above all, would be more prosperous—though this was not emphasised—as less rates and taxes would be demanded to maintain the unemployed and prolific poor.
The simple, honest workman thought birth-control would help to cure the unemployment problem—superficially it appeared so—also the small family is accommodated to small wage! So many meetings were held and unanimous resolutions sent up to the Ministry of Health. Members of Parliament were pestered with letters and postcards.
There were many members of the Conservative, Liberal and Labour Parties who were favourable to facilities for birth-control being provided through local maternity clinics.
It was not a party question, so it was planned to achieve their object through the departmental administration of the Ministry of Health and thus they pleased those who favoured such action and they avoided incurring the displeasure of those who were opposed as they were not openly identified with the policy of voting for it.
Avoiding Criticism There was the further difficulty of avoiding the risk of a storm of protest and criticism if they appeared to grant too much to the protagonists of birth-control, so they made full use of the usual ingenuity of the legal mind. Regulations were framed which appeared to grant little by reason of their restrictive nature.
First of all the Ministry made the regulations permissive and thus handed on the direct responsibility to the local authorities, which necessitated fresh agitation in each area by all advocates of birthcontrol. The two rules were that advice and provision of means of birth-control could be given at the expense of the rates.
(a) To mothers whose lives were imperilled by dangerous and difficult pregnancies.
(b) When the mother's physical health was impaired by too frequent pregnancies.
These two rules silenced a great deal of opposition as their plain and sincere application would only apply to few cases and eliminate the main cause of mere poverty, which birth-controllers regard as the sufficient reason for family limitation.
The Eugenic Society and their many allies were pleased with their victory.
Privately, no doubt, they were informed of the loophole in the second rule which a lax interpretation by the Medical Officer would enable him to diagnose injury to the mother's health because she was unable to afford adding another child to the family.
So now great efforts were made by those members of various political parties, women's organisations, with the Eugenic Society giving expert advice as to the best way of overcoming opposition and getting the permissive " legislation " of the Ministry of Health passed by the various local authorities.
They concentrated on those areas where they deemed the dissemination of birth-control knowledge and practice was most necessary and where stormy opposition was not feared.
Propagation of Business
This procedure was generally to get a petition sent up from local labour trades unions and such kindred organisations to the Health Committee, which would debate the matter and ascertain the general feeling of the Council, and if a satisfactory majority could be relied upon, a resolution drafted by the Town Clerk was put on the council agenda.
Sometimes a public meeting was organised and addressed by an expert "; support of the local press was obtained and if opposition was negligible, members of the council were encouraged.
It may seem strange, but often if there is one Catholic councillor, who could argue the case forcibly against birth control, that is sufficient to prevent the resolution being debated. They are conscious of the. weakness of the case, they fear exposure of the council's neglect of the poor, insufficient houses, economies in health services, etc., and they do not like to lose respectability by openly voting and calling attention perhaps to their own small families and, lastly, incurring the hostility of many voters.
Sacking the Opposition Wheh I was on the council, I was asked whether I should oppose the use of the council clinic for birth-control and they knew there would be a storm, so the whole thing was dropped, with my resignation, it was quietly brought in and passed without any opposition!
Now, sometimes the birth-controllers discover that the medical officer is not favourable and would only make very little use of the permission to impart birth-control information. They have overcome this difficulty, by getting permission to use the maternity clinic, which is known to practically all working-class mothers and they pay for a doctor to attend at the advertised days and hours.
Another modification of this is to use a private clinic and charge a small fee and put up an advertisement in the local council clinic of the place, time, etc., and also to instruct maternity nurses to recommend suitable cases, in their opinion, to go to the birth-control clinic.
Of course, officials, medical officers, and nurses are naturally inclined to follow the public opinion of the paymasters, the councillors, as that assists promotion, etc.
Apparently restricted rules have been rendered comprehensive by the silent pressure of the birth-controllers in the Ministry of Health and by the fact that the Ministry is a law unto itself.
Those Who Pay In most local areas' facilities for imparting birth-control knowledge are provided by the authority at the expense of the rate
payers. You will find on enquiry that the regulation permitting it was passed through the council without any opposition or discussion. It was simply inserted in the minutes of the health committee and duty passed by the council, without some councillors even noticing it and Catholic councillors sometimes, even if aware of it, raising no objection.
Councillors only have a right to information as regards the number of cases that are assisted each year. A Member of Parliament could obtain through the Ministry all the authorities which have given permission for instruction in birth-control and the varied ways it is done, also the total number of cases dealt with each year.
This method of legislating through Government departments has increased of recent years. Tt is the " New Despotism " because it first establishes a new principle, makes it appear limited and innocuous and then unobtrusively vastly increases its scope. It was a new principle and one which was strongly objected to by a large section of the community. It was something new and a violation of a Christian tradition of centuries, giving the official seal and blessing to a practice which inevitably leads to national decay.
Democratic Opinion Real democracy demands that all sections of the community should have a right to have their principles and opinions expressed in the public assembly, that no law should be passed as it were, behind their backs without even the exercise of right of criticism. For instance, if these two rules permitting instruction in birth-control had been debated in Parliament an opponent could have framed an amendment so worded as to allow no evasion, made the rules really restrictive, and obtained that financial assistance which, in accord with the Pope's encyclical, should be given to families in genuine need. This would probably have reflected the mind of the best members of all parties.