Planned Parenthood

Today, the news media typically reference Planned Parenthood in the context of debates over ­abortion and reproductive rights. However, the organization’s founders started out stressing the importance of preventing unintended pregnancy and abortion (at the time an illegal and often deadly procedure) as a way to improve women’s lives and economic conditions. In 1916, a small group of women’s rights activists started America’s first birth control clinic. By doing so, they willingly challenged federal laws prohibiting the dissemination of facts on contraception. This initial act of resistance sparked the larger birth control movement, and eventually led to the formation of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a conglomeration of smaller groups fighting for women’s access to birth control.

In its initial decades, Planned Parenthood provided basic reproductive ...

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