Over the past 100 years, Planned Parenthood has served as a safe haven for those who cannot afford expensive procedures or may not have access to information concerning their health otherwise. And with a motto like “Care. No Matter What,” it comes as no surprise that the clinics and their mission are still going strong. Since the beginning, Planned Parenthood has worked hard to identify new ways to protect and stand up for sexual health and advocate for the power of information. From the humble beginnings fighting Comstock Laws, to more recent battles related to other health outbreaks such as Zika, Planned Parenthood has kept their patients’ sexual health decisions independent and informed.
Below are some key moments in Planned Parenthood history.
1. A Starting Place, 1914
Two years before Margaret Sanger opened the first clinic in Brooklyn, New York with three employees and two rooms, she coined the term "birth control" in her 8-page feminist magazine called The Women Rebel. When Margaret Sanger, a nurse; her sister Ethel Byrne, also a nurse; and Fania Mindell, a receptionist who was fluent in Yiddish; came together to form the clinic, they were violating the Comstock Laws, which made mailing or transporting contraception illegal and deemed information on family planning and contraception obscene. The three were imprisoned, and later, Sanger was involved in the court case, United States v. One Package, that caused the law to be appealed.
2. Publishing Reproductive Health Information, 1917
The Birth Control Review was created and became the first journal developed to discuss contraception. With the publication’s mission, “dedicated to the principle of intelligent and voluntary motherhood,” Sanger was able to organize a partnership with the American Birth Control League and the New York Women’s Publishing Company to fund and promote the cause. You can find archives of every issue here.
3. American Medical Association Supports Birth Control, 1937
Thanks to the United Sates v. One Package case, the American Medical Association officially recognizes birth control as an integral part of medical practice and education. Distributing contraception and information was no longer a federal offense, and is now recognized as medically important. Science!
4. Developing Oral Contraceptives, 1948
Planned Parenthood awarded a grant to a research biologist named Gregory Pincus, who undertook a series of tests to lead the development of the birth control pill. In particular, Pincus and his team experimented with progesterone and synthetic substances in order to inhibit ovulation. In May of 1960, Pincus’ experiments paid off, and the FDA finally approves the sale of oral pills for contraception.
5. The Medical Director Improves Screening, 1955
In the 1950s and '60s, Mary Steichen Calderone served as a public-health physician and a medical director at Planned Parenthood. She advocated for sex education and later formed the Sex Information and Education Council of the United States. It was during her tenure at Planned Parenthood that she started administering pap smears.
6. A Range of Options, 1990s
The U.S. government approved a range of new hormonal birth control options including hormonal implants, which were already in use in 16 other countries, and an injectable progestin-only contraception that works for three months at a time. The FDA later approved a monthly combined hormone injectable contraceptive called Lunette, and two new combined hormone contraceptives, the vaginal ring known as the Nuva Ring, and the patch, Ortho Evra. Thank goodness for having more choices.
7. Improving Prevention Access, 2006-2009
On June 8, 2006, the FDA approves the first vaccine that will protect against the two types of human papilloma virus (HPV), one that causes genital warts, and one and cause about 70% of the U.S. cervical cancer cases. This is also the year that Plan B Emergency Contraceptive became available over the counter for women 18 and over. Then, in 2009, the FDA lowers the age to 17 and over.
8. On The Side of Health, Today
The organization comprises 159 medical and non-medical affiliates, operating more than 650 health clinics in the U.S. with partnering organization in 12 countries. These organizations directly provide a variety of reproductive health and sexual education services, contributes to research in reproductive technology, and does advocacy work aimed at producing and expanding reproductive rights. Planned Parenthood’s 2014-2015 annual report states that the clinics have seen 9,455,482 patients. They see millions for sexually transmitted infection/sexually transmitted disease (STI/STD) testing and treatment, contraception needs, cancer screening and prevention, pregnancy and prenatal services, aborted services, and other various procedures to protect reproductive health for all. Plus they have the support of many celebrities (including one of BUST’s favs, Sleater-Kinney) to keep health care accessible and affordable.
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