Planned Parenthood Federation of America, or Planned Parenthood, is an organization that provides reproductive health services and abortions both in the U.S. and abroad. In 1921, Socialist Party and American Eugenics Society member Margaret Sanger founded the American Birth Control League. In 1942, the organization was renamed Planned Parenthood.
The organization is the largest reproductive health and abortion provider in the United States. According to its 2014-15 annual report, it carried out 323,999 abortions. It also provided over 3.5 million STI tests, over 650,000 HIV tests, and over 680,000 cancer screenings. Planned Parenthood generated over $1.1 billion in revenue in 2014-15.
According to documents revealed to journalists on December 8, 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating Planned Parenthood Federation of America in relation “to the group’s [alleged] practice of sharing fetal tissue with researchers,” a federal crime.
Margaret Sanger opened the first birth-control clinic in the United States in 1916. The clinic was shut down by New York City police just 10 days later. She was arrested and later served 30 days in jail for operating the clinic. In 1921, Sanger founded the American Birth Control League in New York City at the first American Birth Control Conference.
Sanger advocated for eugenics, the idea that human beings could eliminate negative traits through selective breeding. It was also used to make humans more “racially pure” by getting rid of humans deemed “unfit.”
“The most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective,” Sanger wrote in 1921. Sanger warned in the same article that, “Possibly drastic and Spartan methods may be forced upon society if it continues complacently to encourage the chance and chaotic breeding that has resulted from our stupidly cruel sentimentalism.” She saw birth control as a way of preventing the “unfit” from reproducing. She defined them as the “feeble-minded,” “poverty-stricken classes,” and the “mentally defective.”
In May 1926, Sanger spoke to a women’s branch of the Ku Klux Klan in Silver Lake, New Jersey. She described the meeting as “one of the weirdest experiences I had in lecturing” due to the highly secretive way she was transported to the meeting. She later received dozens of invitations to speak to similar groups.
In 1939, the American Birth Control League merged with another Sanger project, the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau, to create the Birth Control Federation of America (BCFA). Sanger and the BCFA initiated what it called “The Negro Project,” which aimed to promote the use of birth control in the black community. The project was conceived and developed by white birth control advocates and only included the support of African-American leaders after the program was well underway.
The Project targeted poor blacks in the South. Sanger sent out workers to the rural South to test various contraceptive jellies and other low-cost forms of contraception to reduce the birth rates of blacks. Sanger and other progressives believed that poor Southern blacks drained resources away from the rest of the country.
The project was initially conceived to be administered and promoted by African-Americans, but the plan fell by the wayside. Instead it was administered by white doctors and activists. Sanger reemphasized the need for blacks to run the program in a controversial December 1939 letter to Clarence Gamble, a physician and philanthropist who supported the project. “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members,” Sanger wrote in the letter. That sentence has later been used to allege the project wanted to exterminate blacks.
Relatively few women participated in the program and fewer women showed up for follow-up exams. The project was terminated in 1942.
In 1942, the Birth Control Federation of America changed its name to Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The organization also began to shift its focus towards promoting a broad range of programs designed to promote reproductive health. It began to move away from politically charged issues such as family limitation and positioned itself as more of a moderate organization that would reach a more conservative post-WWII American population. At this time, Planned Parenthood was not actively campaigning for legal abortion on demand.
Margaret Sanger herself was slowly being sidelined by more pragmatic businessmen and male doctors. For example, she objected to the name change to Planned Parenthood, claiming it was “too euphemistic.”
Sanger then devoted her energy into population control issues around the world and to developing a birth control pill, which was introduced in Planned Parenthood clinics in 1961. She retired from public life in 1962 and died in 1966.
Planned Parenthood began to focus more on abortion-related issues in the 1960s. In 1969, the organization called for the legalization of abortion on demand. It also lobbied for and won the passage of the Title X Family Planning Program in 1970, which subsidized contraception for low-income families. After abortion was legalized nationwide in the Roe v. Wade court decision in 1973, Planned Parenthood became an abortion provider.
In 1996, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPAF) was created and it became the official political action committee of Planned Parenthood. It also expanded its global reach through Planned Parenthood Global, which is the global arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and through the International Planned Parenthood Federation. The groups work in over 189 countries.
Also see Cecile Richards
Planned Parenthood was led by Cecile Richards from 2006 to 2018. Richards is the daughter of former Texas Governor Ann Richards (D), as of 2017 the most recent Democrat elected to the office. She has been president of Planned Parenthood since 2006 and before that she served with various liberal organizations.
On January 24, 2018, Richards announced she would step down as president of PPFA.
Dr. Leana Wen
On September 12, 2018, Planned Parenthood announced former Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen would succeed Cecile Richards as president of the organization, beginning on November 12, 2018.
Planned Parenthood receives funding from both private and governmental sources. According to the 2014-15 Annual Report, the organization generates nearly $1.3 billion in revenue; $553.7 million (or 43 percent) comes from governmental sources and the rest comes from private revenue sources including donations.
Some states have taken aim at Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood because it is an abortion provider. Federal law already states it is illegal to fund abortions, but giving Planned Parenthood taxpayer money allows it to reallocate other sources of money to provide abortions. So far, 15 states have cut taxpayer funding to Planned Parenthood. There have been numerous attempts to cut off Federal government funding to the organization, but those have been unsuccessful.
The most recent attempts to cut government funding for Planned Parenthood have come in the wake of some videos that appeared to show the organization involved in the sale of body parts of aborted babies. The Center for Medical Progress, a pro-life research group, released a series of videos that seemed to show Planned Parenthood profiting from the sale of fetal tissue from aborted babies, in possible violation of Federal and state laws. The videos led to the district attorney in Orange County, California filed suit against two companies, DV Biologics and DaVinci Biosciences, that were involved.
Many private companies, foundations, and industries donate to Planned Parenthood. Among the companies who support the organization are media giant Gannett, Bayer, Microsoft, Chevron, Estee Lauder, Marriott, J.P. Morgan Chase, Levi Strauss, Wells Fargo, Nike, Time Warner, Starbucks, and Whole Foods. The organization also gets support from many in the entertainment industry, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, Lena Dunham, and Elizabeth Banks. Many celebrities donated to Planned Parenthood after the 2016 election after HBO late night comedian John Oliver called on them to donate to the organization in Vice President Mike Pence’s name.
Chili’s restaurants in Indiana and Kentucky announced in 2017 a three-month partnership with Planned Parenthood in which customers could opt to direct 15 percent of their bill to the organization. The restaurant chain canceled the fundraiser shortly before its launch following significant blowback from pro-life customers.