The Planned Parenthood Federation of America means many things to both men and women. It recently celebrated its 95th birthday and serves over three million people a year at its 800 national health clinics. Women with limited or no health insurance can access S.T.I. and U.T.I. testing, contraceptives, pregnancy tests and PAP smears as well as abortions. For this reason, the federation has been swaddled in controversy by political parties and the general public since its inception. Jill Lepore, a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine recently touched on the history of thePlanned Parenthood for the November 14th issue of the publication. Lepore writes about critics of the federation, who say that the clinics mainly provide abortion services paid, in breachment of the Hyde Amendement, by tax payers. The Hyde Amendment was passed in 1976, 3 years after Roe vs. Wade and prohibits federal funds to pay for abortions except when the mother’s life is endangered and in cases of rape or incest. It does not allow Medicaid to pay for abortions. The piece describes the history of the birth control movement in America and where we are today politically with Planned Parenthood. The article, as well as a podcast with the author on the New Yorker website, explains that Planned Parenthood started as a flagship for birth control. The author talks about her archival research for the piece which included some history on Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. As a nurse, Maragaret Sanger became exposed to women, mostly immigrant and poor who suffered constantly because of recurring pregnancies and did not having access to any kind of prevantitive health care or even basic information about it. At this time in history it was illegal to discuss contraception in any way that was affiliated with the Postal Service, no mail was able to concern any literature on the subject. Sanger would observe that wealthier and more well off women had access and information about birth control. The Planned Parenthood Federation of America, originally deemed the American Birth Control League was the realization of Margaret Sanger’s ideas and first hand observations on birth control in America.
There is a rich and fascinating history of birth control, contraception, and women’s rights in this country. We have come a long way, baby but obviously we still have a ways to go. Just last year, Congress passed an Amendment to eliminate all federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Recent personhood amendments being introduced into Congress could make it so that one seeking contraception no longer has rights to privacy. Lepore explains that for most stands on abortion, it is black or white. She likens the debate to a family, where there could be one issue with 15 different opinions but at the end of it all, the family still loves each other. This is not so with abortion and Planned Parenthood, which it is so closely tied to the issue of, especially in Washington, D.C. She says since the 1970’s and Roe v. Wade until today the laws concerning Planned Parenthood and abortion are seen as overstepping the public’s interests. A law was imposed that most did not support and the very painful and private issue of abortion is now worked out through public politics. The author found that there is an absolutism that comes with the abortion debate, it is crippling and it contributes to hyper partisanship in the government. For more about the history of Planned Parenthood, then and now and where it is leading in the future you can find the newest issue of the New Yorker on newstands and the podcast here. Image credit: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2011/11/planned-parenthood.html