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When Bush Was “Rubbers”

The future 41st President was once known as a family-planning champion. his address to the house in 1968.

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Illustration by Tony Millionaire  

Mr. Speaker … Sitting as I have on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, which has responsibility for social-security legislation, I have heard almost endless testimony to the effect that our national welfare costs are rising phenomenally, prompting me to wonder how we can take basic steps to arrest it. But the problem is by no means wholly financial; it is emphatically human, a tragedy of unwanted children and of parents whose productivity is impaired by children they never desired.

We speak of these children as “unwanted”; are they really so? Evidence from various studies indicates that this is indeed the case. One study revealed that while only 6 percent of first pregnancies were unwanted, the figure rises to 62 percent by the ninth pregnancy. A Florida survey reported that 70 percent of the women going to public health maternity clinics did not want additional children. This desire for smaller families is outweighed, however, by the appalling lack of information many women have about family planning: Frequently, mothers who finally learn of birth-control clinics and aids tell physicians that they were previously unaware of such facilities and would have used them if they had known. The Denver Planned Parenthood Clinic reported that of the women accepting contraceptive help, fully 89 percent had never before used its services. Indeed, it is now estimated that about 5 million women want family-planning help—but that only 700,000 actually receive such assistance through public and private sources.

The federal government, along with many state governments, has taken steps to accelerate family-planning activities in the United States, but we need to do more. We have a clear precedent: When the Salk vaccine was discovered, large-scale programs were undertaken to distribute it. I see no reason why similar programs of education and family-planning assistance—all on a voluntary basis—should not be instituted in the United States on a massive scope. It is imperative that we do so: not only to fight poverty at its roots, not only to cut down on our welfare costs, but also to eliminate the needless suffering of unwanted children and overburdened parents.


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