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Planned Parenthood

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About Planned Parenthood:

The term "planned parenthood" originally applied to practices to control the number of children born to a family. Nurse Margaret Sanger promoted information about birth control methods as a way of dealing with the poverty of families where parents could not provide financially for their growing families and were ignorant of sexual and medical knowledge that could limit the number of their children.

About Planned Parenthood Organizations:

Today, Planned Parenthood refers to the organizations at local, state, federal and international levels. Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) is the umbrella group at the national level in the United States, with umbrella affiliates, and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) which is based in London unites groups around the world. The focus of Planned Parenthood Federation today is providing reproductive health care, sex education, counseling and information; abortion services, while the most controversial of their programs, is only a small part of the services provided in more than 800 health centers throughout the United States.

Origin of Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

In 1916, Margaret Sanger founded the first birth control clinic in the United States. In 1921, realizing that the needs for information and services were greater than her clinic could provide, she founded the American Birth Control League, and in 1923, the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau. Realizing that birth control was a means and not the goal -- family planning was the goal -- the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau was renamed Planned Parenthood Federation.

Key Issues in Planned Parenthood History:

Planned Parenthood has evolved to face different issues in women's reproductive services as the political and legal environment has changed. Margaret Sanger was jailed in her time for violation of the Comstock Law. Before the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision on abortion, clinics were limited to providing contraceptives and information -- and even those services were limited depending on the states. The Hyde Amendment made it difficult for poor women to obtain abortion by excluding such services from federal health services, and Planned Parenthood looked for alternatives to help poor women -- the initial target audience of Sanger's birth control work -- to get needed health services and to manage their family size.

Reagan and Bush Years:

During the Reagan years, increasing attacks on women's reproductive choices affected Planned Parenthood. The Gag Rule, preventing family planning professionals from giving medical information about abortion, made it more difficult to provide services to women internationally. The attacks -- both through violence by individuals, promoted by anti-abortion organizations, and through legislative limits on abortion and other reproductive services -- challenged clinics and the legislative and lobbying associated organizations. The Bush years (both presidents Bush) included pushes for abstinence-only sex education (despite evidence that such sex education does not significantly cut the rate of teenage or premarital pregnancy) and more limits on reproductive choice including abortion. President Clinton lifted the Gag Rule but President George W. Bush reinstated it.

2004 March on Washington:

In 2004, Planned Parenthood played a key role in organizing a pro-choice march on Washington, the March for Women's Lives, held on April 25 of that year. More than one million gathered on the National Mall for that demonstration, with women being a large majority of those demonstrating.

Associated Organizations:

Planned Parenthood Federation is associated with:
  • Alan Guttmacher Institute, focusing on research and development
  • Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPAF), a separate organization focusing on legal action and lobbying
  • International Planned Parenthood Federation

Planned Parenthood Direction:

Planned Parenthood clinics continue to be challenged with threats and actual incidents of terror as well as by attempts to intimidate or physically block women from entering those clinics for any services. Planned Parenthood also works for comprehensive sex education, to help prevent pregnancy through information, opposing abstinence-only programs which do not effectively prevent pregnancy. Planned Parenthood advocates for availability of legal contraceptive drugs or devices, access to abortion services, and ending censorship requirements on medical professionals preventing them from giving medical information to their patients.

Those who oppose the availability of abortion or contraceptive services continue to identify Planned Parenthood for defunding efforts, attempts to close clinics through zoning and through protests, and other means. Those who advocate violence as a means of opposing reproductive choice also continue to target Planned Parenthood.

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