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Overpopulation – it was a hot-button topic for discussion in the early 1970s. Hot on the heels of Climate change, ecology, birth control, the Women’s Movement and the issue of Abortion, Overpopulation became the springboard for everything that was rapidly going wrong with America and the world in general. What had been the goal of the American family to produce as many offspring as possible (a holdover from the pre-Industrial Revolution days when a large family meant more farm labor as well as insurance against what had been a high infant mortality rate) was now looked on as part of the problem and not the solution. In 1970 the proposal was put forth that ideal American family was two children, and no more than two. Sociologists, and those involved in the then-new field of Family Planning were now spreading the word that two was enough and anymore than that was either bad for the world or the product of a lack of birth control.
And so organizations such as Zero Population Growth and Planned Parenthood sprang up in an effort to introduce birth control and to educate the population on all the various methods available at the time in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Birth Control pills were relatively new, being introduced to the market in 1960, it gained popularity during the decade, as were I.U.D’s and a whole host of products hitting the market. The Pill, as it was known, was largely frowned on by the Catholic Church, who instead favored the “rhythm method” as the only approved means of controlling pregnancy. There was also the issue of Vasectomies for men to consider, as well as using the Tax incentive as a way of bringing down the population. Legislation was being introduced that woud give a tax break to families with no more than two children, the exception being adopted children, triplets and children born before 1973, the year the law was to take effect.
In this documentary, part of the NOW series for ABC in 1970, the subject of abortion isn’t brought up since it was, in 1970 still illegal. But you get an idea that the subject of birth control was a relatively new one for America to chew on – it was an issue that was going to have long-term effects and would continue to introduce change to a society still coming to grips with fallout from the 60s.
Here is that documentary, as it was aired on August 17, 1970.