My, The Times Have Changed: A Brief thought on Planned Parenthood

Posted: February 9, 2012 by globalsexandsexuality in Uncategorized

“My, The Times Have Changed: A Brief Thought on Planned Parenthood”

I remember when I first heard of Planned Parenthood. The connotation was that it presumably was a baby killing factory; sinister and evil. It did not help that the closest Planned Parenthood was just a stone’s throw away from my local church, as well as another ‘women’s’ service facility.  I didn’t know much about what Planned Parenthood or what services they had to offer, but at the time my age and religious background prohibited me from inquiring. What I found was not only insightful and helpful, but it also answered my questions as to why this particular organization was so controversial and why it received media attention.

Brief History

The origins of Planned Parenthood have an interesting history. I found that the start of this organization was a conceptual idea by the American activist Margaret Sanger. Sanger was an activist and nurse based in New York City, a diverse community in which she found herself among many lower class women who did not have access to information related to birth control and conception due to the Comstock laws. (For more info on the Comstock laws, see http://womenshistory.about.com/od/laws/a/comstock_law.htm) Inspired by what she saw as a social injustice, and the demise of her own mother due to the 22 births she had, Sanger herself began publishing articles about female sexual health for a socialist newspaper in 1911.

Sanger began her activism on sexual health and birth control in 1913 where she worked as a nurse in mostly working class areas of New York City. With these experiences, she began writing journals with the aim of education on birth control (a phrase she invented), menstruation and adolescent sexuality. She opened her first birth control clinic in 1916 after visiting several countries in Europe that had less strict birth control and decency laws.  This led to the creation to the American Birth Control League, the precursor to the modern Planned Parenthood.  Sanger also created several other birth control organizations that predate Planned Parenthood, such as the Clinical Research Bureau, a medical bureau created to exploit a loophole in order to provide information for birth control for it’s medical aspect.

This bureau evolved into the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau in 1928 that Sanger spearheaded. She also created the National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control in 1929, designed to overturn contraception restriction.  The formation of this organization’s efforts led to a 1936 legal victory which overturned the Comstock laws which banned the use of birth control.  This victory led Sanger to become a part of another Birth Control organization designed to merge both the American Birth Control League and the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau. The Merger of both of these organizations led to the creation of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Planned Parenthood in the 21st Century

Planned Parenthood as we know it, is an organization that is dedicated to many aspects of health apart from providing birth control and access to safe abortions.  Planned Parenthood’s mission statement is as follows:

“Planned Parenthood believes in the fundamental right of each individual, throughout the world, to manage his or her fertility, regardless of the individual’s income, marital status, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, national origin, or residence. We believe that respect and value for diversity in all aspects of our organization are essential to our well being. We believe that reproductive self-determination must be voluntary and preserve the individual’s right to privacy. We further believe that such self-determination will contribute to an enhancement of the quality of life and strong family relationships.”

[http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/who-we-are/vision-4837.htm]

As you can see the goals of Planned Parenthood have broadened to not only provide birth control for women but for men also, and not only sexual health but to health in general. According to their website, this organization also advocates for policies that support access to the services they provide as well as promoting scientific research for issues pertinent to the organization’s goals. This organization also receives large amounts of criticism from the aspects of the government and the media.  Some of the criticisms Planned Parenthood has faced involved the obvious focus on birth control and their status as the largest abortion provider.  This organization has been the target of much violence and malice by anti-abortionists.  Still they have persevered and continue to provide services to people around the globe. According to Planned Parenthood, they provide services to 5 million people every year around the world, and they boast 6 million activists on their behalf.

Global Sex and Sexuality?

How has Planned Parenthood played into the concept of sex and Sexuality around the globe you may ask? Well, as an organization that provides reproductive services, it could be argued that Planned Parenthood has the largest influence when it comes to family planning and birth control.  The international sector of Planned Parenthood began in 1971 under the name of Family Planning International Assistance, with the goal of improving reproductive information worldwide. [http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/planned-parenthood-launches-planned-parenthood-global-38099.htm] I would say that this organization brings reproductive health and issues into the global arena, as birth control is not only an issue in the US or the most developed countries; it is an issue in many “third world” countries. Assumedly it can be argued that the role of Planned Parenthood is nothing short of a eugenical platform to eradicate the potential offspring by lower class and poorer populations, as their services are more widely used by poorer people. For example, it is argued that African American women specifically in the US receive abortions three times the rate of Caucasian women.

Conclusion

Planned Parenthood is a large and influential organization in the realm of reproductive rights and sexual health for men and women around the world. Despite negative connotations of what this organization may have, it is an arguably beneficial one, in it’s stance of more liberal viewpoints on the issues of abortion, birth control, women’s sexual health, sex education, men’s sexual health and the like.

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Comments
  1. I liked how you weren’t afraid to hide the history behind Planned Parenthood and explained how things have changed over time. I think that this is a more effective way to tell people about what the organization does regardless of the history behind it. I also like the way you wrote the post; I think that splitting the post up into different sections makes it easier for readers to follow.

  2. vaberman says:

    After reading your article about Planned Parenthood, it made me think more about the organization in general. Reading the history is especially interesting (particularly Sanger’s involvement). It is pretty cool that one person had such an impact on society and consequently we still have Planned Parenthood in existence. Great job on your blog entry!

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