When the first birth control clinics in the United States were opened in the 1920s, there was concern over what was called “overdues,” that is, women who came to the clinic after having missed a menstrual period and were usually pregnant. Hannah Stone, as medical director of the Clinical Research Bureau in New York City, had established the policy that staff members should refuse to examine overdue applicants. She feared that, if an overdue woman was examined at the clinic and found pregnant and later decided to have an abortion, the clinic might be portrayed by its enemies as sanctioning abortion. She and her staff were worried that decoys seeking abortions were occasionally sent by the Roman Catholic Church or the police in an effort to close the clinic. Margaret Sanger in the 1930s became concerned over this policy because the overdue patients were being turned away without any counseling. In 1933, Sanger wanted to conduct a study of all overdue patients applying to the clinic in person or over the telephone who were interviewed and given special counseling. She believed that documenting 1,000 cases showing economic, psychological, and medical justification for abortion would make a more humane policy toward these women possible. She was unable to conduct the study, and as a general rule most clinics remained reluctant to deal with overdue women. The policy did not change until after abortion was declared legal in 1973.
Abortion and Birth Control Clinics
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