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Choices of the Heart: The Margaret Sanger Story (1995)

Margaret Sanger, a nurse who, in 1914, became a pioneering crusader for women's reproductive rights after she published a booklet on birth control techniques that flew in the face of a law ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Margaret Sanger
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Bill Sanger
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Anthony Comstock
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Anita Block
Tom McCamus ...
Mr. Schlesinger
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Ed Cady
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Arnold Scopes
Jeff Pustil ...
Heller
...
Mr. Higgins
...
Narrator
Ron Hartmann ...
Dr. Benjamin (as Ron Hartman)
...
Nan Higgins
...
Leo Krulic
Patrick Galligan ...
D.A. Whitman
Sandra Crljenica ...
Peggy Sanger
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Storyline

Margaret Sanger, a nurse who, in 1914, became a pioneering crusader for women's reproductive rights after she published a booklet on birth control techniques that flew in the face of a law established by Anthony Comstock forbidding the dissemination of information on contraception. Sanger later helped to establish America's first birth control clinic in 1916, and in 1925 was one of the founders of Planned Parenthood.

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8 March 1995 (USA)  »

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The right to choose
5 August 2017 | by See all my reviews

I'm certainly glad that I saw Elia Kazan's A Tree Grow In Brooklyn before I saw Choices Of The Heart. In that film with no medical coverage and no family planning information available to women, Joan Blondell has to choose to have her baby at home or afford the luxury of going to a hospital to have the child there. A mind blowing state of affairs hard to comprehend, yet even today there are mostly men in public office who'd like to return to that.

Margaret Sanger in the teen years of the last century blew more than a few minds questioning the reason for these attitudes. Before the Industrial Revolution and agriculture was what engaged most people, large families were necessary to run farms. That and a high proportion of stillborns and early infant and childhood deaths meant that woman became a baby making machine. Habits died hard even after the Industrial Revolution people still kept having large families. The biblical command of Be Fruitful and Multiply became also a testament to male virility.

So in the pre-World War I years of the USA, nurse Margaret Sanger preached birth control and contraception and that was considered at the time pornography. Dana Delany plays Sanger whom we see as both crusader and as wife and mother who was one of the first to demand that women have the right to control their own bodies. Joining here in her beliefs and even going to jail defending them is husband Henry Czerny.

In the last few years of his life as Sanger's adversary is Anthony Comstock, self appointed defender of the morals of the United States of America. Rod Steiger plays him broadly almost satirically, but never making him totally ridiculous. He was appointed back during Gilded Age a US postal inspector and used that position plus considerable rhetorical gifts to guard our morals the way Harold Hill got the women of River City to oppose that pool room. He was quite real and quite dangerous and a good portion of the Republican Party would love to see someone like him back as the official censor of the USA. Check his Wikipedia biography.

The spirit and look of the times is captured well in Choices Of The Heart: The Margaret Sanger Story. This is not her whole life story, this woman lived until the Sixties. But these were critical years for her and critical years for the female part of the United States population. A year after Anthony Comstock died, the first Birth Control Center for women was established disseminating information on contraception and family planning in 1916.

Sadly the fight goes on today. I fear it will never end. But people like Margaret Sanger are an inspiration.

I agree with the previous reviewer, this film should be seen in high school audiences especially in those high school audiences it is most likely to be banned.


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