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Margaret Sanger Clinic – Vanguard of Planned Parenthood, A Place that Matters

Margaret Sanger’s first birth control clinic, at 46 Amboy St. in Brownsville, Brooklyn, was the city’s first clinic promoting birth control. For 9 days in 1916, women and men thronged the sidewalk outside of a 3-story tenement at 46 Amboy St., waiting to learn about contraception from Margaret Sanger and her sister Ethel Byrne, both nurses. Learn was the operative word. Just disseminating information about birth control (a term Sanger later coined) was then illegal.

The Amboy St. clinic intended to challenge this constraint. Announcing their services in flyers in Yiddish, Italian, and English, the activists managed to serve about 500 people before the police shut the clinic down. The resulting jail sentences, hunger strike, and court case forced public debate, and resulted in a landmark ruling that modified the repressive Comstock laws and permitted Sanger to open her first doctor-run legal clinic at 17 W. 16th St. in Manhattan (declared a National Historic Landmark in 1993).

The building that housed the storefront Brownsville Clinic is gone, but the movement it spawned is active around the world.