Battle For Abortion & Contraceptives Research Paper


Planned Parenthood The history of Planned Parenthood is voluminous and extensive. It has been filled with controversy, legal spats and struggles for acceptance and funding from the United States government. Even nowadays, the organization is threatened with budget changes or cuts from the federal government and many people have turned to violence against Planned Parenthood and similar groups over the years due to opposition to abortion or other birth control options that Planned Parenthood is known for providing or at least advocating for. What follows in this report is a history of Planned Parenthood as well as some of the pivotal events and outcomes that have occurred over the years. While Planned Parenthood is an organization with a lot of detractors, they also have a huge amount of support from some very loyal and entrenched groups around the country.


While the major decision that exists regarding abortion occurred with Roe v. Wade in the 1970's, Planned Parenthood has actually been around a lot longer than that. Indeed, the organization was founded in 1916 when Margaret Sanger, her sister and a friend opened the nation's first birth control clinic in Brooklyn, New York. The country and its state at that time was quite different than it is now. Indeed, women were not able to vote, sign contracts, have their own bank accounts or divorce their abusive husbands. They also could not control the number of children they could have and also could not obtain information about birth control. Indeed, many of the laws on the book at the time, many of which stemmed from "draconian" measures thought up in the 1870's, were the context for many people considering "family planning" to be an obscene concept and term (Planned Parenthood, 2016).

Sanger was keenly aware of just how damaging and hurtful such rhetoric and laws were and that is what drove her to feel as she did. Her mother had a total of eighteen pregnancies, of which only eleven went to term. She died in 1899 at the age of forty. Sanger had previously worked as a nurse with immigrant families in the Lower East Side area of New York. She was a first-hand witness to the sickness, misery and death that resulted from unplanned pregnancies and illegal abortions. The New York clinic that she opened provided contraceptive advice to the poor, immigrant women and so forth. The amount of people that would line up to see her was staggering and it would often twist and turn around the block. The reaction from the local authorities was swift and nasty. The clinic was raided and the three women that ran the clinic (including Sanger) were convicted of disseminating birth control information.

Sanger was not intimidated in the least by such tactics and she reacted to this development by founding The Birth Control Review. It was indeed the first scientific journal that was dedicated to contraception. She appealed her conviction and that appeal led to a new and more liberalized interpretation of the anti-contraception statute that existed in the state of New York. In 1923, Sanger opened the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau in the Manhattan area of New York. This bureau was designed to provide contraceptive devices to women and also to collect accurate statistics to prove the safety and long-term efficacy of those products. Also in 1923, Sanger incorporated the American Birth Control League. It was deemed by many to be an ambitious way to help address global issues like world population growth, disarmament and famine. The two organizations mentioned thus far would eventually merge and they would thus become the Planned Parenthood Federation or America, or PPFA for short (Planned Parenthood, 2016).

In 1936, Sanger and her colleagues were able to win their first major judicial victory. Sanger was arrested after leaking information to postal authorities that she had ordered birth control products through the mail. This led to a judicial...


Judge Augustus Hand, which wrote the opinion for the United States Circuit Court of Appeals, ordered a sweeping change and liberalization to the Comstock laws from the 1870's that were mentioned in passing earlier. The main gist of his opinion was that the general viewpoint that the information about damage from unplanned pregnancies and the overall benefits of contraception should not in any instance be considered obscene and thus illegal to disseminate. However, the scope of that decision was limited because it was only made at the Circuit level. As such, only New York, Connecticut and Vermont were subject to these changes. It was more than a generation, about thirty years in total, before that decision expanded in size and scope relative to where it was enforceable and where it was not. However, a short-term victory before that came in 1937 when two good things happened for female contraception. First, the American Medical Association recognized that birth control was an "integral part" of good medical practice and education about the same. Also, North Carolina became the first state to recognize birth control as a public health measure and thus they would then provide contraceptive services to indigent mothers through the public health programs that existed in that state (Planned Parenthood, 2016).
A huge pivot point for Planned Parenthood and birth control was the 1960's. Indeed, the development of the birth control and the intrauterine device (IUD) both came about during that time frame. Before that, however, there was a grant awarded to a man named Gregory Pincus. A research biologist, he undertook a series of tests and studies and this led to the birth control pill. In 1960, the pills were approved by the Food and Drug Administration of the United States. The pill was a huge breakthrough and more than one in four women had used the pill for at least some time just five years after it came out. 1962 marked the beginning of Alan Guttmacher's reign as the President of Planned Parenthood. He was a huge advocate for legal abortion and cited some major examples of why a ban on abortion was the wrong thing. One instance was the fact that there were many women in the United States and Europe that took the drug thalidomide from 1956 and 1962. This led to many babies being deformed upon birth. In 1966, there was a rubella outbreak and this caused much the same deformity problems with kids. There was a great amount of anger because there were many women that wanted to get abortions in light of these patterns but could not do so because the practice was still illegal at the time (Planned Parenthood, 2016).

These two developments as well as other things led to a higher demand for legal abortions and more family planning options and this was something that Planned Parenthood was at the forefront of. In 1981, Estelle Griswold was a member of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut. Her clinic dispensed contraceptives and the clinic was doing so in direct contravention and conflict with the laws of the state at the time. Of course, the state eventually fought back but Griswold and Planned Parenthood at large came out victorious when the case Griswold v. Connecticut rules that such a barrier on birth control was simply not permissible. Just one of the state laws that was struck down as a result of this case was a law in Connecticut that banned sales of contraceptives to married couples in the state. This started a domino effect and ten other states have more liberalized birth controls rules and legislation. Abortion became part of that change when Colorado addressed the matter in 1963 and thirteen other states followed suit shortly thereafter (Planned Parenthood, 2016).

The efforts and ideas of Planned Parenthood reached a Presidential level during the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson. Indeed, abortion and family planning was part of Johnson's wider approach with the War on Poverty. The United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare creates a program that helps provide contraceptive advice and services to families that are low-income and for married women in general. There are also amendments to the Social Security Act, which was originally passed in the 1930's, that said that at least six percent of the annual appropriations for maternal and child health should be earmarked and set aside solely for family planning services and for the individuals out there that request the same. Finally, there was a change with the United States Agency for International Development. They began to provide contraceptives as an "integral part" of its development programs overseas (Planned Parenthood, 2016).

President Nixon continued the momentum that Lyndon Johnson started. This was despite the fact that Johnson was a Democrat and Nixon was a Republican. Nixon asserted that any family or woman in particular that wanted family planning services but that could not afford them should be given those services without fail or question. In 1970, Nixon signed Title X of the Public Health Service Act into law. This made contraceptives available regardless of income and it also provided funding for…

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