1949 August 30

Gen. MacArthur Cancels Margaret Sanger Visit to Japan


The U.S. military command in Japan on this day informed birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger that General Douglas MacArthur had canceled her invitation to visit Japan. At issue was the fact that abortion rates in Japan were extremely high, and Sanger had expressed concern that the greater availability of birth control information and services would help to reduce the number of abortions. Gen. MacArthur, however, concluded that birth control was too sensitive an issue for the American occupation command, and consequently cancelled her invitation.

Sanger finally had a triumphant visit to Japan in 1953 (when Gen. MacArthur was gone from the scene). She addressed the Japanese Diet and was given a motorcade parade, in which sound trucks announced “Sanger is here.”

Sanger’s career as a birth control advocate was filled with many dramatic events in addition to her arrest and jailing. Her magazine, Woman Rebel, was banned from the mails on April 2, 1914. She opened the first birth control clinic in America on October 16, 1916, and was arrested a week later. On February 2, 1917, she was sentenced to a month in jail for violating New York state law. After her release, she produced a short film, Birth Control, which had one private showing on May 16, 1917, after which it was banned. No print is known to survive. She was prevented from speaking on a number of occasions: See, for example, May 22, 1916 and April 16, 1929.

Sanger’s organization, the American Birth Control League, evolved into today’s Planned Parenthood Federation (see January 18, 1939).

Learn more: Ellen Chesler, Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America (1992)

And more: Jean H. Baker, Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion (2011)

And even more: https://www.nwhm.org/education-resources/biography/biographies/margaret-sanger/

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