Margaret Sanger’s The Pivot of Civilization – Chapter Two, “Conscripted Motherhood”

Ladies, I feel sick. And I don’t mean that reading The Pivot of Civilization makes me feel sick (though it does); what I mean is that my stomach is constantly queasy. Right now, for example, sitting at my computer typing this, my stomach is taking a boat ride through the stormy sea of green, bubbly gases.  Gross, I know, but a common experience during pregnancy nevertheless. Perhaps my condition may help illustrate a few points related to the topic we are going to look at in this blog post: the trials of motherhood.

Chapter Two begins:

Motherhood, which is not only the oldest but the most important profession in the world, has received few of the benefits of civilization. It is a curious fact that a civilization devoted to mother-worship, that publicly professes a worship of mother and child, should close its eyes to the appalling waste of human life and human energy resulting from those dire consequences of leaving the whole problem of child-bearing to chance and blind instinct.

Sanger seems to start out on the right foot when she says that motherhood is “the most important profession in the world,” but ends up in quite a tangle by claiming that leaving child bearing to chance is a “problem” and a result of “blind instinct.” This implies that women who don’t control their fertility are not good mothers, something which would have criminalized the majority of mothers during her time. Throughout the chapter, she develops this idea, using highly-charged terminology such as the following:

“the trap of compulsory maternity”

“irresponsible parenthood”

“unceasing fertility”

“the close relationship of this irresponsible and chance parenthood to the great social problems of feeble-mindedness, crime and syphilis”

“children of chance”

“an abnormally high rate of fertility is usually associated with poverty, filth, disease, feeblemindedness and a high infant mortality rate”

“the same tale of uncontrolled and irresponsible fecundity”

“their parents’ cruel ignorance and complacent fecundity”

Personally, I don’t appreciate the negative slant she employs to try to sway readers into a rejection of leaving conception up to “chance” (meaning, God). I’ve actually read most of the book by now, and this is a common tactic of hers: claiming to be scientific and unsentimental in her observations, she nonetheless attempts to excite our emotions by making emotionally-charged statements.

The only form of “irresponsible parenthood” I will acknowledge is that which comes about as a result of pre-marital or extra-marital sex. Sex should be reserved only for marriage; that is the safest and most stable environment for the raising of children. However, even outside of marriage I do not believe birth control is a good option: it would seem to compound the problem, don’t you think?

She also employs stories which she claims are commonplace during her day (and I suspect that perhaps they were) — stories of weary mill workers forced to work during the night shift so they can be at home with their children during the day, becoming pregnant over and over again but not being able to care for their newborns properly. Many of these infants die, and the children that do live are so neglected, overworked (they often work in the mill, too), and undernourished that their condition in life is a constant state of misery instead of the joyful childhood they should be experiencing.

I have heard the same lamentation before, perpetuated on into our current generation: “People shouldn’t have babies when they can’t provide for them. God would want us to be responsible, wouldn’t He?” Though I certainly sympathize with those difficult situations such as the ones Sanger cites in her book, and such as the ones we see even today across the world, I don’t agree with the proposed solution of birth control. Birth control may seem to be the most compassionate response, but there are several points I want to make to show you why I think it is the wrong solution:

  • First of all, it is never advocated in God’s Word. This is THE BIGGEST reason why I reject birth control, no matter the person, no matter the circumstance! I suggest we consider the example of the Hebrews during their exile in Egypt: even as slaves in a hostile environment, God caused them to multiply, as He had promised Abraham He would do (please read and compare Genesis 15 with Exodus 1). God’s plans are big-picture and long-term, and though He certainly has compassion for our individual circumstances, there is much more He takes into consideration beyond our personal trials — considerations which we have little or no way of knowing. How could the Hebrews have known that their multiplying greatly, though the factor that would lead them into slavery, would at the same time be the very factor that would cause God to show His glory and power by rescuing them? It was all part of God’s plan, though they knew very little of it. Can you imagine what might have happened if they had used birth control because of their difficult (beyond difficult!) situation?
  • Second of all, birth control is a perversion of the way God designed our bodies to function. Wouldn’t it be preferable to suffer than to be a pervert? We don’t think of birth control as “being perverted” nowadays because it has come — largely due to Sanger’s influence, it seems to me — to be regarded as “good” and “responsible” and “normal.” However, it is anything but! Do you think God had condoms and diaphragms in mind when He created our bodies and set the functions of their organs into motion? I can just see it now: “Yes, Adam and Eve, I made you ‘very good,’ but down the road you’re going to need to know how to cram a diaphragm up into your body, or squirt acid up in there, or stuff a piece of rubber over your part in order to please Me by being responsible. Sure, I made your reproductive organs to have a specific job, just like I made your lungs to breathe and your heart to beat; but, I want you to ignore all of that and pretend that you can make them behave however you want, because you’re in charge, not Me.” I don’t know about you, but I think that seems pretty absurd.
  • Third, birth control degrades motherhood. Motherhood IS hard, I admit that! And it is harder for some than it is for others. But, is it not the difficulty of the trial which most qualifies us for the reward? Why would God reward us for something that comes easy, that requires no sacrifice, no faith, no denial of self? When we submit to that which is undesirable for the sake of obeying God, we are more like Christ than ever, Who sacrificed Himself for us though He didn’t have to. He wanted to, because He knew what it would mean for us in the future. Christ was not thinking of His present discomfort: He was thinking of the big picture and the long-term plan. When we open our wombs to God’s control, we, like Mary the mother of Jesus, become vessels of honor and dignity! To take that away from others — or to deny our own selves that privilege — from a mistaken concept of “being responsible” actually contributes to the degradation of this sacred service. It becomes a choice of ours, instead of a divine mission.

To conclude, I really, really don’t like feeling nauseous! I really, really don’t like feeling tired all the time! And I hate the bloating and cramping due to gases! Did I mention throwing up? Should I add the intense discomfort of giving birth? Sometimes, to be honest, I don’t like being pregnant. I admit that in moments of weakness, I wonder if it might not have been better if God would have delayed my fertility for a little while longer . . . I am human, after all, and I have frailties and sinful tendencies. Despite all that, however, my convictions must win out! Belief in the Word of God and a commitment to obeying it must override my emotions! And I know that God will help me through it all. It seems foolish to the world, but I trust in God to save me, not just for eternity, but during this life, as well. I know that if other people would but look to Him, too, they wouldn’t “need” birth control to solve their problems.

[God] created women to be mothers with the anointing to nurture children and nest in the home. As they each embrace the unique and God-given strengths given to them they become a strong force for God in this world.

Of course, Satan knows God’s plans and hates them. He seeks to undermine and wipe out every plan of God. And he hates motherhood. He knows the power of godly motherhood to impact the nation for righteousness and therefore wants to wipe it out. He uses humanism, feminism, and progressivism, and sadly, so many listen to his deceitful ways. They are brainwashed to think that motherhood is insignificant and are enticed away from the home into the corporate man’s world.

Homes are left vacant of mothers. The children are in daycares instead of being nurtured by mothers in the home. God’s heart cries and the devil laughs up his sleeves. When he [gets] the mothers out of the home, he can influence the minds of the children to his deceitful ways.

It’s time for the mothers of the nation to wake up. God, the One who created us knows best. He has the ultimate plan. The one that works. The one that brings blessing. The one that brings healing and wholeness. The one that blesses nations.

It’s time to embrace the glory God intends for women, instead of the deception, heartache, divorce, rejection of children through contraception, sterilization,  and abortion, and the fragmentation of families–all inspired by the devil.

(from “Perfect Design,” an article by Nancy Campbell, published in Above Rubies, Issue 94)

“Women will be preserved [Greek sozo: saved, delivered, protected, healed, cured, preserved, kept safe, and made whole] through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.”

1 Timothy 2:15 (emphasis added)



  1. Ruth

    Dear Jessica
    It is extremely interesting to read your thoughts on this book and this topic.
    By the way: I really , really hope that you might feel better soon in your pregnancy.I wish you strenght!
    As i think about your text,i pretty much agree with your oppinion.
    What burdens my hearth is that this wonderfull concept God had there, will, in our fallen world, only work out if both, man and woman,-by Gods grace-daily live out HIS commands as they are written in the bible.
    I have read LOTS of books on midwifery and societies history, plus out of a deep interest listen to many a stories from seniors.
    I think from todays perspective we can hardly fathom the misery people often lived in hundred years ago.
    The poverty, the lack of hygiene, the lack of medical knowledge and care, the rampant alcohol abuse among men in the working class,the threath of dying in child bed, all the babies that died…
    What wonder that some people where seeking to solve these problems.
    What you say is true but what would the mill worker ,maybe married to an alcoholic have answered you? True hoplessness is something very terrible.
    It breaks my hearth if i think about the despair those poor worn out women must have felt at times. I am SO thankfull to live in a time where i can hapily look forward if i have another Baby, because it will have Food and clothes and a bed and…
    Let me give you just two examples out of my family:
    One of my greatgrandmothers had ten children. She was married to an alcoholic who commited inzest to his daughters on a regular bases. They had not enough food , not enough clothes. In fact my grandma told me that they had taken their shoes away by May first and got them back by November first. To save on the cost of shoes and no mather if there was snow fall later on(wich is common in the mountains). Their circumstances (1940’s)where so dire,that she used to jump on fences with her belly or jump down from elevated places, in hope to get rid of that one more child growing in her, making the misery even worse. How desperate must a mother be to do such a Thing?
    One other greatgrandmother had eight children. She had two more at the very late age of over 50. Both of them died from plane NEGLECT.
    How can one come to the place of letting her babies die from hunger?
    These stories sound very terrible to me but they where not at all uncommon in these days. If there was no living faith life was often just one big misery for the common People.
    Lets move in time until 2017: Friends of us have currently a foster child in their family who was taken away from his mother for she did not care for him properly.He was found malnourished and very ngelected. She had twins a few weeks ago wich where taken from her right after birth. She can see them of course but not have them with her.
    I am in the schoolboard in our town and i see first hand how many family problems evoleve when the mothers think that they must go to work and leave their children at day care. They maybe dont wnat to hurt their children but problems in behaviour or in the families are just the fruit of this life style.
    Conclusion: Family planning has NOT solved the problems in the families .
    We dont die anymore during child birth and we can feed and clothe our little ones but the spiritual poverty remained with many.
    What has not be mentioned yet in the whole Topic is the CRUCIAL role of the MAN. If he failes everything else is at stake too.But we ALL need JESUS. He is our only hope.
    So to bring this to an end. In order to have large families working we must live out Gods design with a mother caring for the children and a father lovingly provide for the Family.
    So what greater whitness can we be as Christians in this world than to proof that it indeed is possible to live happily with a lot of children.
    Of course sometimes couples have to accept that dire health issues or Gods will prevent them from having multiple children or children at all.
    I also know people who are a very positive testamony in such a Situation.

    Jessica ,this became too Long and im not sure if i could made my thoughts clear. You dont have to publish this if you dont want too 🙂

    P.S.: I finally got the guts to talk to my doctor about a reversal from the Sterilisation. We are exited what comes next.

    1. Post
      Jessica Roldan

      Dear Ruth,
      What a wonderful comment! Thank you!
      I agree with everything you said. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the room to write everything I would have liked to in this article; but, there is so much more I would have liked to have added, if I had more room (and felt less sick).

      The truth is, we live in a sin-cursed world. The only true solution to society’s problems is JESUS. When He reigns as the perfect King, we will finally have peace. And then, after His 1,000 year reign, the earth and the heavens will be destroyed and restored. THEN, God will wipe away every tear and there will be no more sickness, death, or war. THEN, we will finally have the perfect world we all long for.

      In the meanwhile, much of the world’s misery is caused by people who are sinful and selfish (such as the drunken fathers you mentioned). That’s the way it is, and we can’t escape it.

      But, what we CAN do is trust in God. I’m reading the Psalms right now, and there is SO MUCH written about God being our Savior and Helper! We are told not to put our trust in man and in man’s solutions, but in God Almighty! I believe that with all my heart. As believers in Jesus, we have the beautiful benefits of a relationship with God that unbelievers do not have — and THAT is why unbelievers (in part) have so much misery in their lives. If they would but come to Jesus! True, Jesus might not take way ALL their hurts and troubles immediately (they might have to wait till heaven for that), BUT, He would comfort them through the trials.

      I am aware of the great and terrible hardships that people face today, and that people faced (sometimes to an even greater extent), in the past. It is very sad. However, though I sympathize with people like your great-grandmothers, they were still wrong to do what they did. Hard circumstances must be met with the RIGHT solutions, not with the WRONG ones. How do we know what the right solutions are? God’s Word — pure and simple. There is NO OTHER standard for life which we must follow. AND, we should try our best (if at all possible) to HELP those people who are in hard circumstances, to relieve them, if we can. Certainly, we can pray for them!

      I know that you agree with that, I just wanted to show how closely we think. And I might add, that I know how important the roles of both the woman AND the man are. However, I have chosen to focus most on the role of the woman (since I am a woman).

      Thanks again, Ruth!

    2. Post
    3. SusanneT

      The problem is that allowing and encouraging women to use contraception, simply lead women down the same path of sin that some men were already following.

      Especially it lead women into fornication, promiscuity and a gradual rejection of their femininity and their obligation to modesty and purity.

      Which has of course lead men into further sin and so it goes on.

  2. Regina Shea

    I’m sorry you feel so yucky. I remember those days well. Margaret Sanger was one messed up woman. I found an online version of the book you are reading. That woman brainwashed a lot of women. No wonder society hates motherhood!
    Anyway, when you are feeling all better I want you all over for dinner sometime.

    1. Post
      Jessica Roldan

      Thank you, Regina! I appreciate it!
      Margaret Sanger WAS messed up; but, it looks to me from reading her book, that she genuinely thought she was doing the most compassionate thing by advocating birth control. As a result of her humanistic worldview, she saw the world through different “lenses” than we do. It was probably easy for her to look at the world’s problems and think: “They’ve got this all wrong, of COURSE birth control would help them; why are they being so stubborn?” Whereas, those of us with a TRULY biblical worldview know how wrong she was.

      I’m glad you looked the book up online to check it out. I think we should be knowldegable about how we got to where we are, and reading books such as this one helps. I find it very insightful to see how closely Margaret Sanger’s ideals ALIGN with what many Christians think today! How, sad, that without knowing it, they are adopting the same way of thinking as a godless, unbelieving woman.

      Thanks for joining me in this discussion!

  3. SusanneT

    The tragedy of this approach was that these early feminists – as feminists always do though that the answer to some very real and terrible problems being experienced by women and children was to try to turn women into imitation men, by ‘curing’ the ‘problem’ of fertility and motherhood.

    Instead of addressing the sins of immorality extra marital sex, prostitution, incest, divorce and men deserting their families. And the society problems of poverty, poor medical facilities etc.

    But God designed women, ordained Biblical marriage and defined sin for his purpose and as part of his plan which their actions go directly against.

    1. Post
      Jessica Roldan

      Great comment! I really like the second paragraph; it echoes my thoughts exactly. The real problem is immorality, men not caring for their families, poor medical care, and economic difficulties (mainly). It is not motherhood. Motherhood is hard, true. But, let’s look at this realistically: has birth control made better mothers out of us? Has it made us value children more? Does it truly make marriages stronger? It seems to me that we are WORSE off than ever, since birth control was allowed! Mothers are no better at mothering, children are murdered by the millions, and marriage has become “living together,” and has changed drastically in definition (no longer one man and one woman).


  4. SusanneT

    Every time I hear anyone argue for contraception I find that their justification is always based completely on other sin.

    Of course if you want to be promiscuous then contraception is useful, if you want to put career ahead of motherhood….., if as a man you want easy fornication ……, if you want to absolve responsibility for your family …..

    It is always the same.

    1. Post
      Jessica Roldan

      Great points, Susanne! I agree.

      I can think of other justifications — “Christian-sounding” ones:
      “I need to think of the children I already have.”
      “I want to foster/adopt needy children, and I couldn’t do that if I had more biological ones.” (There is a limit in the US on how many children you can have living in the home, and you can only have two per bedroom, if you want to get into foster care.)
      “We feel called to be missionaries/pastor a church/do some sort of ministry, and having children would interfere with that.”
      “I don’t want to compromise my health, which is already at risk for complications if I become pregnant again.”

      Yes, all these justifications sound good, don’t they? The problem is, they are based on *circumstances* and not on the clear Word of God. Sometimes reasoning that sounds good can actually be out of God’s will, and we need to keep that in mind.

  5. SusanneT

    Would it be regarded as ultra conservative or prudish to point out that the use of contraception goes directly against one of the primary purposes of the intimacy between husband and wife (the other being to cement marriage in a mutual physical act of love). Such that it is no longer morally justified.

    1. Post
      Jessica Roldan

      I don’t call that being “ultra conservative”; I call that being “biblical.” The only reason we are different, is because most everybody else is going against the Bible! If everybody were doing what the Bible said, we wouldn’t be different, nor “ultra conservative,” nor labeled “prudish.”

      I agree that no matter what our justification might be, if we are using contraception, we are acting against God’s design for our bodies and for marriage. We are acting in a way which is un-natural and perverted. I am not afraid to say that, though people may think of me as “weird.” I KNOW I’m not! Especially since I have the support of the Bible and nearly 2,000 years of Church history on my side!

      1. SusanneT

        Well said ! And can I add that I think our husbands, our Church and indeed Christian society has every right to expect us as women to be ‘ultra conservative and prudish’ in following God’s teaching to us.

        1. Post
          Jessica Roldan

          Absolutely, Susanne.
          We live in a feminist church culture today. Even Christian women don’t want to be “forced” or expected to live a certain way. But, God’s Word holds up a model for the Christian woman to follow (in the New Testament) — not of Deborah, as many feminist Christians would have us believe– but of Sarah, who called her husband “lord,” and submitted herself to this man, another imperfect human and sinner like herself.

  6. Diana J.

    Again, so many good points that you made here! Awesome!

    I love what you said about God being about the long-term picture, rather than short-term pleasures which are so often so short-sighted and selfish. YES.

    I also love what you said in another post about the modern church being basically aligned with Margaret Sanger in so many points. Oh, this is sad.

    And yes, as you said, we Christians come up with the saddest excuses for not being open to God’s gift of children, and it usually comes with the word “responsibility” attached to it. One can make the exact same excuses for an abortion. “We don’t feel led to have more children right now.” “We can’t afford another child.” “This isn’t a good time.” “It would be irresponsible to bring another child into the world when we can’t give it all the proper advantages.” The underlying philosophy is 100% the same – human selfishness and human reasoning, apart from God.

    Thanks for all you write here – such good material!

    1. Post
      Jessica Roldan

      Yes, Diana!
      It does upset me that Christians today are unaware that they are living life (in terms of family planning) according to Margaret Sanger’s vision instead of God’s. They blindly don’t see how birth control, as you say, leads — as a logical consequence — to abortion. The underlying philosophy is the same; though the Christian determines to stop one step short of actual murder, he or she has already “committed murder in his or her heart” by rejecting children/human beings/new life from God.

      Thanks for the back up!

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