Publications and Research

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2010


This article investigates how moral-reformer Anthony Comstock, who helped outlaw the practice of birth control and to have abortion criminalized, and Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood and birth-control activist, advanced their causes through the discourse of freedom and self-control. While Comstock’s and Sanger’s works are often seen in opposition, this article questions that positioning by pointing out how they both lobbied against accessible abortion using similar tactics. Finally, this article demonstrates how Comstock and Sanger, through different means, worked to present abortion as a depraved practice that would lead to the demise of American society. Presenting Comstock and Sanger side by side, this article shows one example of the reasons why it is problematic to use the language of rights and freedom to argue for fair and equal access to abortion.


This work was originally published in Feminist Formations

Copyright © 2012 Feminist Formations. This article first appeared in Feminist Formations 22:2 (2010), 42-59. Reprinted with permission by Johns Hopkins University Press.

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