Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, fought for universal birth control access. She wanted to make contraception as easily accessible for working-class women as it was for upper-class women. In 1914, she launched a newsletter, “The Woman Rebel”, and coined the term birth control. She helped open the first birth control clinic in 1916, which was only open for 10 days after it was closed down by police. She was arrested, and spent 30 days in prison. Sanger founded the American Birth Control League in 1921. The League sought to spread information about birth control to the public. They opened the first legal birth control clinic in 1923 after it became legal for doctors to prescribe contraceptives. They changed their name to Planned Parenthood in 1942.
Margaret Sanger was an influential figure in the movement for reproductive rights. With her influence, comes controversy regarding her involvement in the Eugenics Movement. The Eugenics Movement refers to the selective breeding of individuals on the basis of their “fitness” for society. Individuals with undesirable traits were discouraged from reproducing. In the United States, compulsory sterilization was performed on over 60,000 people during the duration of the movement. Individuals were chosen based on their IQ, health status- including presence of psychopathologies with factors such as race and poverty increasing an individual’s vulnerability to sterilization. Margaret Sanger believed that birth control would bring the control away from the government and into the hands of the woman herself who should not reproduce. Her movement occurred within the context of eugenics, with certain groups being more susceptible than others to the movement’s propaganda. While there is debate on whether or not Sanger truly sided with the movement, one must consider its impact on her own ideals and agenda.
There are many misconceptions about the modern-day use of Planned Parenthood. Many people have the misconception that Planned Parenthood is an immoral organization that solely encourages abortion. In reality, Planned Parenthood has many other services such as HIV testing, prenatal care, breast exams, sexual education, flu vaccines and many more. In actuality, about 35% of Planned Parenthood services are used for contraception, 34% for testing and treatment, and only about 3% is for abortion services. Planned Parenthood has come a long way since its creation in 1916. Many women struggled to obtain control over their own bodies and rights. Margaret Sanger helped women have access to clinics by legalizing birth control and ensuring that health insurance plans cover FDA-approved contraceptives.
Planned Parenthood is vital for women, men and their families. Currently, it is crucial to support and get involved due to the new administration’s desire to defund Planned Parenthood. In addition, President Trump places a gag rule order on international reproductive health organizations. The new policy affects and prevents millions of people worldwide from receiving affordable and safe healthcare. The gag rule policy forbids international organizations from receiving U.S. funding if they provide, lobby or counsel for abortions services.
More information on how to get involved:
Donate to Planned Parenthood Action Fund
President Trump’s legislation that will allow states to withhold federal money from Planned Parenthood