"Dr. Halliday Sutherland is a born writer, especially a born story-teller. Dr. Sutherland, who is distinguished in medicine, is an amateur in the sense that he only writes when he has nothing better to do. But when he does, it could hardly be done better” – G.K. Chesterton
The “Tenets of the C.B.C.” were set out in an appendix in the first edition of Aylmer Maude’s biography of Marie Stopes. The “C.B.C.” was the shorthand acronym for the Society for Constructive Birth Control and Racial Progress set up by Dr Marie Stopes in 1921.
THE TENETS OF THE C.B.C.
The objects for which the C.B.C. was founded are as follows:—
The objects of the Society are (a) to bring home to all the fundamental nature of the reforms of the conscious and constructive control of conception and the illumination of sex life as a basis of racial progress; (b) to consider the individual, national, international, racial, political, economic, scientific, spiritual and other aspects of the theme , for which purpose meetings will be held, publications issued, Research Committees, Commissions of Enquiry and other activities will be organized from time to time as circumstances require and facilities offer; (c) to supply all who still need it with the full knowledge of sound physiological methods of control.
As these objects indicate, the scope of the Society is very wide, its interests far-reaching, and its possibilities of future development very elastic. Even to-day the tenets which appear fundamental to different members of the Society will naturally vary, hence no one of the following is binding on an individual member. General agreement with the objects of the Society suffices for membership.
Nonetheless, it has been felt that it would be useful explicitly to state in concise form what may be described as the bedrock of general agreement of the Society. This is as follows:—
1.—The hygiene of sex is as suitable and proper a subject for scientific and serious study as the hygiene of nutrition, locomotion, or any other human function.
2.—Owing to the shamefaced attitude which has until recently characterized our dealings with the subject, all the manifold data involved in the different aspects of sex life have not had the direct scientific and physiological handling they deserve and require. We deplore this and shall endeavour to remedy it.
3.—We maintain that the highest spiritual development, the noblest intellectual illumination, and the sweetest romantic possibilities of individual sex experience, are not damaged by sound scientific knowledge, but contrariwise, are enhanced and elevated.
4.—We consider that in relation to the procreation of additional members of the community, the best possible knowledge of scientific and technical details should be available to those undertaking this important social duty.
5.—We believe that the haphazard production of children by ignorant, coerced, or diseased mothers is profoundly detrimental to the race. We believe, therefore, that parenthood should no longer be the result of ignorance or accident, but should be a power used voluntarily and with knowledge.
6.—We maintain that to achieve this result a knowledge of the simple hygiene of contraception is essential.
7.—We advocate that no individual contraceptive measure as final or fundamental, but maintain that the best measures available at any time should be taught and known by the people.
8.—We desire to keep constantly in touch with all advances in science which may have a bearing on the practical details of contraceptive measures, and for this purpose we have organized a Medical Research Committee to keep our Society informed as to the current scientific position of the hygiene of contraception.
9.—AS REGARDS THE POPULATION AT PRESENT. We say that there are unfortunately many men and women who should be prevented from procreating children at all, because of their individual ill-health, or the diseased and degenerate nature of the offspring that they may be expected to produce. These considerations would not apply to a better and healthier world.
10.—There are many women unfortunately so constructed—suffering from weakness of certain organs—that they would risk death if they were to attempt to bear children, and who, therefore, should not bear them.
11.—There are unfortunately many couples so ill-provided with this world’s goods, or with means to acquire them, that they cannot support further children, and therefore should not bear them. Women, owing their own or their husband’s incapacity to be self-supporting, may be permanently or temporarily in such a position owing to disaster or unemployment. The following Resolution was passed by our Society:
Relolution passed at General Meeting November 22nd, 1921.
“Both to spare your own personal distress and to avoid bringing a weakly child into the world, it is important that all should realize that no one should conceive in times of individual misery or ill-health. Of course wherever a child is already on the way, the best must be made of it. But sound and wholesome methods of Birth Control (Control of Conception) are known, and advice will be given free by a qualified nurse to all unemployed married persons who present this slip at the Mother’s Clinic, 61 Marlborough Road, Holloway, London, N.19.”
12.—The Society approves and welcomes the work done by the first British Birth Control Clinic (The Mother’s Clinic, 61 Marlborough Road, Holloway, London, N.19.), where the very poor and ignorant receive personal instruction; but we consider that this public service should not be left to private enterprise to maintain, and hence the Ministry of Health should supply suitable help and contraceptive instruction to working-class women at the many Ante-natal Clinics, Welfare Centres, etc., already in existence all over the country.
13.—We maintain that science has already made available contraceptive measure as safe and as simple to use as any other hygienic measures widely known and practised, such as brushing ones’s teeth, or the removal daily of a dental plate by one who has artificial teeth. We, therefore, maintain that knowledge and instruction in these matters for the normal and healthy is an hygienic and not a medical matter. The problem of controlling conception on the part of those who are diseased, abnormal and unhealthy is on the other hand a purely medical matter and may involve measures which this Society would not advocate for general use.
14.—We as a Society are at present working for the dissemination of the best possible hygienic knowledge to all who are intelligent enough to be capable of using it, but we recognize the grave National problem raised by the fertility of those too degenerate or too careless to be capable of using any form of contraceptive.
15.—We are convinced that children spaced by voluntary means have a less mortality, and that the mother of such children has time to recover her health and attend to the young children in a better way, than if the pregnancies follow rapidly one after the other, and we are therefore in favour of voluntarily spacing all the desired children of even the healthiest woman.
16.—In short, we are profoundly and fundamentally a pro-baby organisation, in favour of producing the largest possible of healthy, happy children without detriment to the mother, and with the minimum wastage of infants by premature deaths. In this connection our motto has been “Babies in the right place,” and it is just as much the aim of Constructive Birth Control to secure conception to those married people who are healthy, childless, and desire children, as it is to furnish security from conception to those who are racially diseased, already overburdened with children, or in any specific way unfitted for parenthood.
17.—We hold no fixed opinions concerning the total numbers wither of individual families or of populations, desiring only that the optimum shall be obtained.
Passed by the Executive Committee, C.B.C. March 1923.
Everyone who is interested in securing the best future for our Race should join the Society for Constructive Birth Control and Racial Progress. Apply for membership forms to the Hon. Secretary, C.B.C., 4-5, Adam St., Adelphi, London, W.C.2. Gerrard 4431.
This website celebrates the life and work of Dr Halliday Sutherland (1882-1960), a doctor, author and opponent of eugenics. Sutherland is sometimes remembered today as the defendant in the Stopes v. Sutherland libel trial of 1923. This infographic (and fact-check sheet) provide the background to the case. Some of the materials on this site are from Dr Sutherland’s personal papers and, as such, represent a useful resource for researchers and historians that are not available elsewhere.