Robert L. Dickinson
In 1929, Robert Latou Dickinson, MD visualized the relationships among organizations in this chart, created for the Committee on Maternal Health (CMH), an organization he established as a medical counterpart to Sanger’s Birth Control League.
There were several barriers to increasing the control of conception – in Massachusetts, one of these was a draconian anti-birth control law. The Birth Control League of Massachusetts, led by Blanche Ames, advocated for doctors’ authority to treat patients as they saw fit, without state interference. Dickinson spoke to a group of 250 doctors at the Ames home; the result was the “Massachusetts Doctors’ Bill of 1931” (Senate Bill No. 43), which was quickly defeated by a coalition of New Catholics and conservatives. John Rock was the only Catholic physician to sign the petition. Restrictions on distributing contraceptive information and devices continued in Massachusetts into the 1970s.
Another barrier, as Dickinson argued in a lecture he prepared for Margaret Sanger’s first world congress on birth control in 1934, was the lack of scientific knowledge of human reproduction. Dickinson, an advocate of sex education, was concerned with two populations: those who can’t use contraception and those who won’t. Attention had been focused on the “can’ts,” people who needed access to birth control techniques. He suggests shifting efforts to the “won’ts” who needed better methods of birth control that only science could provide.