By Drew Pearson
March 3, 1963
SPRINGFILED, IL—The State of Illinois, which reminds tourists on auto license plates that it's the "Land of Lincoln", is struggling with a problem reminiscent of Lincoln's day. It's the migration of Southern Negroes to the "ghettos" of Chicago and the high rate of illegitimate children that follows.
Mixed with this problem is that of religion.
It was precipitated when the forthright new head of the Illinois Public Aid Commission, Arnold H. Maremont, began issuing contraceptives to Negro women and giving them information on birth control—all paid for by the state.
This is a problem which has confronted almost every major city of the Eastern and Midwestern United States where relief roles for dependent and frequently illegitimate children have skyrocketed among the Negro population but where the Catholic church has vigorously opposed information on birth control.
In Puerto Rico, for instance, church opposition to birth control information was so strong that in the 1960 election the Bishop publicly denounced Gov. Munoz Marin and urged Puerto Ricans to vote against him.
Arnold Maremont, who has precipitated a similar storm in Illinois, is a wealthy industrialist who manufactures auto mufflers, and is an art connoisseur of some note. The Catholic clergy and many Catholic political leaders are bucking him. But he has not budged an inch. Two showdowns, however, are imminent.
No. 1 is his confirmation which will soon come up before the Illinois State Senate where Republicans are in control. They have mixed feelings about Maremont. The migration of Southern Negroes to Chicago, they contend, is what insures an overwhelming Democratic vote against them in Cook County, and Maremont, a Democrat, is the first man who has taken a courageous step to curtail this future Democratic vote.
Democratic senators also have mixed feelings. Maremont was appointed by a Democratic governor, Otto Kerner. However, many Democratic leaders are Catholic.
HE'S A BUZZ SAW
Regardless of these mixed emotions, the chances are Maremont will be confirmed. As one Republican senator remarked: "He's intelligent and has courage. You may disagree, but he's able. He's a buzz saw. Be careful how you handle him."
Showdown No. 2 will come over two bills introduced in the Illinois Legislature to ban Maremont's policy of giving free contraceptives to women on relief and making available information on birth control. If these pass, Maremont might as well resign.
The battle line is tightly drawn. The Catholic clergy have lined up almost unanimously for these two bills. The Protestant clergy are almost unanimously against.
Catholic political leaders are also pushing the anti-birth control bills. But they are Democrats and in a minority. The Republicans control the legislature, and they have mixed emotions. The would like to embarrass the Democrats, but they would also like to curtail both the skyrocketing cost of relief and the swelling Negro Democratic vote in Chicago.
Chairman Maremont spelled out the facts very simply when he was called to testify on his budget of $12,000,000 a month to aid dependent children with a total welfare aid of $700,000,000 a year.
"Look, gentlemen," he said. "This birth control plan will cost $600,000 a year. But it will save $2,000,000 a year. It will prevent 6,473 illegitimate children from coming into the world. It costs $7,000 to support a child for 17 years or a total cost to the state of $47,000,000 in that time."
Chairman Maremont was also eloquent on other relief problems.
"You want to cut the cost of public aid," he told the State Budgetary Commission, headed by Everett R. Peter, an arch Republican. "If you're really sincere about it, if you want to save money, do something about the Negro who is paying 25 to 30 per cent more rent than whites. But I warn you, don't slash the aid program too much or you won't get your federal money from Washington."
GOVERNOR IS WORRIED
Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago, a Catholic, has supported Maremont. Actually, ever since 1957, he has gone along with all unpublicized policy of referring women interested in birth control to the clergy or a doctor and having Cook County pay the doctors' bills. This system has now been expanded and is being developed for the entire state.
Governor Kerner, who also started out backing Maremont to the hilt, of late has been hedging. Recently, he appointed Dr. Herbert Nebel of East St. Louis, a prominent Catholic physician, to the Illinois Public Aid Commission to serve under Maremont.
Nebel has testified for the two bills banning birth control information and contraceptives. Kerner made the appointment at the insistence of the Democratic state chairman, James A. Ronan, a Catholic who also serves as Illinois' finance director and is ex-officio member of the Aid Commission. Dr. Nebel replaces William Rutherford of Peoria, a Protestant.
On the commission are also Michael J. Howlett, the state auditor, a Catholic, together with two Negroes, Theodore Jones and Richard Jones, who are reported favoring birth control.
Another recent appointment to the commission is Jack R. Sundine, editor of the Moline Dispatch, who recently stated: "I am for the birth control report. I am a strong Lutheran and a mild Republican."
So goes the birth control battle in Illinois. Meanwhile the illegitimacy rate among Chicago women on welfare is 40 per cent; there is an increasing number of multiple fathers, conditions in the Negro ghetto become worse, the crime rate is on the increase, and almost every night in the slum area there are bad fires.
Note—Washington will be watching the outcome of the Illinois controversy. The Alliance for Progress faces essentially the same problem all over Latin America where the zooming birth rate nullifies American money invested for social reforms.
Mexico, which has put across important social reforms, has doubled its population in the last 23 years, making Mexico City equal to Chicago as the second largest in the Western Hemisphere. But with the population increase, poverty has wiped out most of the gains of social reform.