On October 16, Planned Parenthood celebrated its centennial anniversary, marking 100 years of reproductive health services.
The non-profit organization, which focuses on providing and promoting reproductive services and education to the public, was founded by Margaret Sanger (1879-1966), who opened the first birth control clinic in the United States on October 16, 1916, in Brooklyn, New York.
Since then, the organization has grown and spread to service all fifty states, as well as working with other organizations internationally, to ensure as much of the world as possible is given access to their services.
“We’re thrilled to be 100 years strong. We’ve made incredible gains during our first century and we’re just getting started,” Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards said in a press release. “We will build on our proud legacy and launch our second century with as much passion, courage, and conviction as our first.”
Planned Parenthood clinics offer many services, with a focus on unwanted pregnancy and STD prevention through safe sex education, access to birth control and STD testing. When these measures fail, if there are medical emergencies, and in cases of rape, Planned Parenthood does perform abortions, as limited and dictated by state law.
They also offer referrals to other groups for services they do not directly provide, such as adoption agencies as an alternative to abortion, connections to support groups and hotlines, and recommendations to health professionals for various sexual and reproductive issues and complications.
Outside of patient care, Planned Parenthood also works to preserve access to their services against legal changes, utilizing lobbyists and lawsuits to have laws struck down for over-reach or unconstitutionality. The organization is nonpartisan and, while they have received federal funding since 1970 as part of the Public Health Service Act, they are non-governmental and independent.
They are not without controversy, however, being that the services they provide are the center of a national debate.
Their primary opposition is from groups opposed to abortion on moral and religious grounds, who seek to have the practice ruled as murder and outlawed.
While illegalization of abortion was made impossible by Roe vs. Wade, and further in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, legislators and concerned individuals have pushed for other forms of regulation, such as mandatory wait times, counseling, and ultrasounds to hinder access to abortions. Several of these measures have been overturned on a state by state basis, such as a measure passed in Mississippi that would have prevented the usage of Medicaid at any facility that provides abortion services that was overturned in a suit by Planned Parenthood.
Their success varies, however, with states such as Texas having successfully passed and supported similar laws.
Other challenges that have cropped up relate to individual practices involved in operations.
Planned Parenthood faced conflict over videos recorded by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), a pro-life organization whose members posed as a company seeking to buy fetal tissue. The videos alleged a profit focus in Planned Parenthood, despite the fact that the organization only charges fees to cover operating costs and only donates tissue at the wishes of the mother.
The videos also alleged subsequently discredited claims that donor consent was not obtained, and that procedures were conducted to obtain more intact tissue. All claims were flatly denied by Planned Parenthood.
Despite federal investigations turning up no conclusive evidence of wrongdoing, the controversy prompted a cessation of reimbursement fees for fetal tissue donated to research after abortion operations in 2015. The move was stated to be intended to guard against future federal attacks.
Accusations of under-the-table sales continue without concrete evidence.
Despite these issues, Planned Parenthood looks on to their second century with great hope and anticipation, and will continue working towards reproductive health.