Posts Tagged ‘birth control clinic Brownsville’

The pioneering birth control clinics of New York

February 16, 2013

BrownsvilleclinicThe first clinic got its start in October 1916. It opened in a storefront on Amboy Street in working-class Brownsville, Brooklyn (left).

Fliers attracted 100 women on opening day.

“For ten cents each woman received [a] pamphlet What Every Girl Should Know, a short lecture on the female reproductive system, and instructions on the use of various contraceptives,” states this NYU website.

amboystflyerpopThis was radical stuff a century ago. No wonder it only took days for the woman who started the clinic, social reformer and birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger, to be arrested.

Sanger was charged with violating the Comstock Act. Established in 1873, it made discussing and administering birth control a crime.

Sanger spent a month in jail in Queens. But there was one upside: though an appeals court upheld her conviction, the judge determined that nothing in the Comstock Act prohibited doctors, rather than activists, from giving out contraception.

With this in mind, Sanger founded her second clinic, what she called the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau, in 1923.

Staffed by MDs, the clinic disseminated information about contraception and offered birth control devices—serving more than 1,200 women in its first year, according to The Encyclopedia of New York State.

The clinic moved into this lovely circa-1846 row house at 17 West 16th Street in Chelsea in 1930.

“By the 1930s it served over 10,000 women per year and was the largest birth control clinic in the country,” the authors state.

Margaretsangerclinic

For decades it was the only clinic giving out birth control to unmarried women, and interestingly, it treated men too. In 1969, it opened the first outpatient vasectomy center in the country.

After 50 years and a huge change in acceptance of birth control, the clinic closed in 1973. The 16th Street house is now a private home, albiet with a plaque designating it as a national historic landmark.


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