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100 years ago: Marie Stopes libel case

10 March 2023

March 9th, 1923.

[Stopes had sued a Roman Catholic doctor, Halliday Sutherland, over an attack in his book Birth Control: A Statement of Christian Doctrine Against the Neo Malthusians.]

IT IS the regret of the supporters of Dr. Stopes that the rules of evidence did not permit the examination of the birth control question on its sociological side at the recent trial. In that regret we share. We are as anxious as any of the Birth Controllers for all full discussion, not only of the theological and medical aspects of the controversy, but of its social and economic aspects. However, the fact that the judicial proceedings left this side of the question untouched makes it possible for us to discuss these aspects without touching on questions which are still in a sense sub judice. In regard to Dr. Stopes herself, we have at present only two things to say. The first is that it is now indisputable (though the matter was never in serious doubt) that she is perfectly honest in her belief that she is a true social reformer and the herald of a new gospel. The second thing is that we deeply regret the increased circulation that the trial promises to give to her pamphlet, “A New Gospel to all Peoples”. In our view, the circulation of this pamphlet among young people will not have a good effect on orthodoxy of Christian morals as they have been understood, both by Catholics and Protestants, in the past. More than this we will not say until a higher tribunal has reconciled the judgment of the Lord Chief Justice with the findings of the jury. . .

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