In the wake of the overturn of Roe v. Wade and the controversies brought about by it, the future of reproductive rights has entered murky waters. The future of clinics like Planned Parenthood has become increasingly polarized. With many states taking steps back with their stance on abortion coupled with the fact that Planned Parenthood has gained notoriety as a clinic that provides abortion services to the public; The question looms as to what else lies in jeopardy. While some see Planned Parenthood as a symbol of life and a resource; Others perceive it as an affront to the fight against women’s reproductive rights. Was this really the intention of Margaret Sanger, when she first founded the organization? And have our political differences hijacked the true intentions and impact of Planned Parenthood?
Back to the beginning
Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), formerly known as the American Birth Control League, was the first clinic of its kind when it was founded back in 1916 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, NY. Its founder, Margaret Sanger, was a nurse from New York. Sanger’s career as a public health nurse led her to witness the sickness, disease, and poverty that were brought about by the lack of contraceptive methods resulting in unwanted pregnancies.
Her studies in Europe with birth control methods inspired her to bring back knowledge to the States to open a clinic. However, Sanger was already met with hurdles since spreading information about birth control methods was illegal in America at the time. Sanger’s clinic was open for a mere nine days before it was raided and shut down by police for violating the Comstock Act of 1873. While Sanger’s clinic idea was short-lived, the impact and need were apparent; During those nine days, the line to the clinic circled around the block with women who flocked over wanting information on birth control and sought advice from Sanger and her associates. Sanger was charged with maintaining a “public nuisance” and was fined. She refused to pay her fine and rather spent 30 days in a Queens penitentiary where she proceeded to educate the inmates on birth control methods. This pushed Sanger to continue her travels throughout America and share her vision.
A bit of a backstory
Sanger was not a stranger to controversy in her lifetime and amid her passion for wanting to make birth control accessible to women, she faced backlash over other beliefs and associations. She secured ties to the Klu Klux Klan, with her intentions being that it would further help with her cause and sway some of her conservative counterparts. She was accused of targeting the black community and was a believer in eugenics. A lot of her birth control trials were conducted on minorities, specifically the African American community.
Birth control was legalized in 1965 with Griswold vs. Connecticut which allowed married couples to use contraceptives. Planned Parenthood has established itself as, “One of the nation’s leading providers of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men and young people, and the nation’s largest provider of sex education.” It also has reaffirmed that it does not align nor
agree with Sanger’s controversial past.
In the line of fire
The majority of the populations served by Planned Parenthood are uninsured, in rural and vulnerable populations where people would otherwise be unable to afford these services. In fact, 79% of Planned Parenthood’s population that are serviced fall under the nation’s poverty line. Some of these services include sex education, family planning, birth control, mammograms, vaccinations, cancer screenings, and STD checks. Present-day, and essentially since its inception, Planned Parenthood, and its mission have been met with resistance and overshadowed by misconceptions. With some people merely associating it with an abortion clinic; Clinics across the nation that are run by Planned Parenthood are often the target of pro-life activists who generate negative propaganda.
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