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Planned Parenthood

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Planned Parenthood
Planned Parenthood logo.svg
Abbreviation PPFA
Motto Care. No matter what.
Formation 1916 to 1942[note 1]
Legal status Federation
Purpose Reproductive health
Region served
United States and other countries through Planned Parenthood Global.[1]
  • ~700 clinic locations[2]
  • ~73 medical or related affiliates
  • ~101 non-medical affiliates[3]

Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), usually referred to simply as Planned Parenthood, is a non-profit organization that provides reproductive health services in the United States and internationally. PPFA is an affiliate of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and one of its larger members. PPFA has its roots in Brooklyn, New York, where Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. She founded the American Birth Control League in 1921, which changed its name to "Planned Parenthood" in 1942. Planned Parenthood reports that it consists of approximately 174 affiliates and 700 health clinics in the United States and abroad.[2][3] Planned Parenthood directly provides a variety of reproductive health services, is involved in sexual education efforts, contributes to research in reproductive technology, and engages in legal and political efforts aimed at protecting and expanding reproductive rights.[3]

PPFA is the largest single provider of reproductive health services, including abortion, in the United States.[4][5][6] In 2013, PPFA reported seeing 2.7 million patients in 4.6 million clinical visits and performing a total of 10.6 million discrete services including over 325,000 abortions.[7][8][9] They have a combined revenue of US$1.3 billion, including roughly US$530 million in government funding such as Medicaid reimbursements.[3][9] Throughout its history PPFA has experienced support, controversy, protests,[10] and violent attacks.[11]


Early history

Margaret Sanger (1922), the first president and founder of Planned Parenthood

The origins of Planned Parenthood date to October 16, 1916, when Margaret Sanger, her sister Ethel Byrne, and Fania Mindell opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York.[12] All three women were arrested and jailed for violating provisions of the Comstock Act, accused of distributing "obscene materials" at the clinic. The so-called "Brownsville trials" brought national attention and support to their cause. Sanger and her co-defendants were convicted on misdemeanor charges, and they appealed this through two subsequent appeals courts. While the convictions were not overturned,[13] the judge that issued the final ruling also modified the law to permit physician prescribed birth control. Their campaign led to major changes in the laws governing birth control and sex education in the United States.[14]

In 1938, the clinic was organized into the American Birth Control League, the core of the only national birth control organization in the US until the 1960s. By 1941 it was operating 222 centers and had served 49,000 clients.[15] However, some found its title offensive and "against families" so the League began discussions for a new name.[16] In 1942 the League became known as the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.[16]

Largely relying on a volunteer workforce, by 1960 the Federation had provided family planning counseling in hundreds of communities across the country.[15] Planned Parenthood was one of the founding members of the International Planned Parenthood Federation when it was launched at a conference in Bombay, India in 1952.[15][17]

After Sanger

Following Margaret Sanger, Alan Frank Guttmacher became president of Planned Parenthood, serving from 1962 until 1974.[18] During his tenure, the Food and Drug Administration approved the sale of the original birth control pill, giving rise to new attitudes towards women's reproductive freedom.[15] Also during his presidency, Planned Parenthood lobbied the federal government to support reproductive health, culminating with President Richard Nixon's signing of Title X to provide governmental subsidies for low-income women to access family planning services.[19] The Center for Family Planning Program Development was also founded as a semi-autonomous division during this time.[20] The center became an independent organization and was renamed the Guttmacher Institute in 1977.[20]

Faye Wattleton became the first African American president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1978. Wattleton, who was also the youngest president in Planned Parenthood's history, served in this role until 1992.[21][22] During her term, Planned Parenthood grew to become the seventh largest charity in the country, providing services to four million clients each year through its 170 affiliates, whose activities were spread across 50 states.[23]

A Planned Parenthood supporter participates in a demonstration in support of the organization.

From 1996 to 2006, Planned Parenthood was led by Gloria Feldt.[24][25] Feldt activated the Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPAF), the organization's political action committee, launching what was the most far reaching electoral advocacy effort in its history.[26] The PPAF serves as the nonpartisan political advocacy arm of PPFA.[27] It engages in educational and electoral activity, including legislative advocacy, voter education, and grassroots organizing to promote the PPFA mission. Feldt also launched the Responsible Choices Action Agenda, a nationwide campaign to increase services to prevent unwanted pregnancies, improve quality of reproductive care and ensure access to safe and legal abortions.[15] Another initiative was the commencement of a "Global Partnership Program", with the aim of building a vibrant activist constituency in support of family planning.[15]

On February 15, 2006, Cecile Richards became president of the organization.[28]

Margaret Sanger Awards

In 1966, PPFA began awarding the Margaret Sanger Award annually to honor, in their words: "individuals of distinction in recognition of excellence and leadership in furthering reproductive health and reproductive rights." In the first year, it was awarded to four men, Carl G. Hartman, William H. Draper, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and Martin Luther King.[29][30][31][32] Later recipients have included John D. Rockefeller III, Katharine Hepburn, Jane Fonda, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Ted Turner.[33][34][35]


The services provided by PPFA affiliates vary by location, with just over half of all Planned Parenthood affiliates in the United States performing abortions.[36] Services provided by PPFA include birth control and long-acting reversible contraception;[37] emergency contraception; breast and cervical cancer screening; pregnancy testing and pregnancy options counseling; testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases; sex education; vasectomies; LGBT services; and abortion.[38][39]

In 2013, PPFA reported seeing 2.7 million patients in 4.6 million clinical visits.[7] Roughly 16% of its clients are teenagers under the age of 20.[2][40] According to PPFA, in 2013 the organization provided 3.6 million contraceptive services, 4.5 million sexually transmitted disease services, about 1 million cancer related services, over 1 million pregnancy tests and prenatal services, over 325,000 abortion services,[41] and over 100,000 other services, for a total of 10.6 million discrete services.[7] PPFA is well known for providing services to minorities and the poor;[42][43] according to PPFA, 75% of their clients have incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level.[38]

Given that each patient receives about three services on average, the percent of abortions provided out of the total services provided—3%—may not clearly represent the importance of abortion to PPFA.[8] Each year, 12 percent of PPFA's patients gets an abortion,[44] which is expensive when compared with other services.[45][46]


Location in Houston, Texas

PPFA has two U.S. offices and three international offices. It has 68 medical and related affiliates and 101 other affiliates including 34 political action committees.[3] These affiliates together operate more than 700 health centers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.[2][47][48]

PPFA owns about US$54 million in property, including real estate. In addition, PPFA spends a little over $1 million per year for rented space.[3]

The largest facility, a US$26 million, 78,000-square-foot (7,200 m2) structure, was completed in Houston, Texas in May 2010.[49]

Planned Parenthood Global

PPFA's international outreach and other activities are performed by Planned Parenthood Global, a division of PPFA.[3] Offices are located in New York, NY; Washington, DC; Miami, FL; Guatemala City, Guatemala; Abuja, Nigeria; and Nairobi, Kenya. The organization's focus countries are Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopa, and Kenya.[50]


Planned Parenthood headquarters on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, D.C.

Planned Parenthood has received federal funding since 1970, when President Richard Nixon signed into law the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act, amending the Public Health Service Act. Title X of that law provides funding for family planning services, including contraception and family planning information. The law had support from both Republicans and Democrats.[51] Nixon described Title X funding as based on the premise that "no American woman should be denied access to family planning assistance because of her economic condition."[52]

In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014, total revenue was US$1.3 billion: non-government health services revenue was US$305 million, government revenue (such as Medicaid reimbursements) was US$528 million, private contributions totaled US$391 million, and US$77 million came from other operating revenue.[53] According to Planned Parenthood, 59% of the group's revenue is put towards the provision of health services, while non-medical services such as sex education and public policy work make up another 15%; management expenses, fundraising, and international family planning programs account for about 16%, and 10% of the revenue in 2013–2014 was not spent.[53]

Planned Parenthood receives above a third of its money in government grants and contracts (about $528 million in 2014).[46][53] By law, federal funding cannot be allocated for abortions,[54] but some opponents of abortion have argued that allocating money to Planned Parenthood for the provision of other medical services "frees up" funds to be re-allocated for abortion.[43][55]

A coalition of national and local pro-life groups have lobbied federal and state governments to stop funding Planned Parenthood. As a result, federal and state legislators have proposed legislation to reduce funding levels.[54][56] Six states have gone ahead with such proposals.[43][57][58][59] In some cases, the courts have overturned such actions, citing conflict with federal or other state laws, and in others, the federal executive branch has provided funding in lieu of the states.[58][59][60] In other cases, complete or partial defunding of Planned Parenthood has gone through successfully.[61][62]

In August 2015, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal attempted to end Louisiana's contract with Planned Parenthood to treat Medicaid patients at a time when there was an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases in Louisiana.[63] Planned Parenthood and three patients sued the state of Louisiana, with the United States Department of Justice siding with Planned Parenthood.[64]

Donors to Planned Parenthood have included the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Buffett Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Turner Foundation, the Cullmans, and others.[65][66][67][68] The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's contributions to the organization have been specifically marked to avoid funding abortions.[65] Some donors, such as the Buffett Foundation, have supported reproductive health that can include abortion services.[65] Pro-life groups have advocated the boycott of donors to Planned Parenthood.[69] Corporate donors include CREDO Mobile.[70]

Political advocacy

Planned Parenthood is an advocate for the legal and political protection of reproductive rights.[71] This advocacy includes contributing to sponsorship of abortion rights, and to women's rights events.[72] The Federation opposes restrictions on women's reproductive health services, including parental consent laws. To justify their opposition, Planned Parenthood has cited the case of Becky Bell, who died following an illegal abortion, rather than seek parental consent for a legal one.[73][74] Planned Parenthood also takes the position that laws requiring parental notification before an abortion is performed on a minor are unconstitutional on privacy grounds.[75]

The organization also opposes laws requiring ultrasounds before abortions, stating that their only purpose is to make abortions more difficult to obtain.[76] Planned Parenthood has also opposed initiatives that require waiting periods before abortions,[77] and bans on late-term abortions including intact dilation and extraction, which has been illegal in the U.S. since 2003.[78]

Planned Parenthood supports the wide availability of emergency contraception such as the Plan B pill.[79] It opposes conscience clauses, which allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense drugs against their beliefs.[80] Planned Parenthood has also been critical of hospitals that do not provide access to emergency contraception for rape victims.[81]

Citing the need for medically accurate information in sex education, Planned Parenthood opposes abstinence-only education in public schools. Instead, Planned Parenthood is a provider of, and endorses, comprehensive sex education, which includes discussion of both abstinence and birth control.[82]

Planned Parenthood's advocacy activities are executed by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which is registered as a 501(c)(4) charity, and files financial information jointly with PPFA.[3] The committee was founded in 1996, by then-president Gloria Feldt, for the purpose of maintaining reproductive health rights and supporting political candidates of the same mindset. In the 2012 election cycle, the committee gained prominence based on its effectiveness of spending on candidates.[83] Although the Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPAF) shares some leadership with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the president of PPAF, Cecile Richards,[84][85] testified before Congress in September 2015 that she did not manage the organization.[86] The Planned Parenthood Action Fund has 58 active, separately incorporated chapters in 41 states[87] and maintains national headquarters in New York and Washington, D.C.[88]

Planned Parenthood has received grants from the Obama administration to help promote the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare.[89]

Political spending

Planned Parenthood spends money on politics and elections through its federal political action committee, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund; through its Super PAC; and through a variety of related 501(c)(4) entities.[90] Planned Parenthood endorsed Barack Obama in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.[91][92] In the 2014 election cycle, Planned Parenthood spent US$6,587,100 on contributions to candidates and political parties and on independent expenditures.[90]

Before the U.S. Supreme Court

Former Planned Parenthood President Gloria Feldt with Congressman Albert Wynn in front of the U.S. Supreme Court

Planned Parenthood regional chapters have been active in the American courts. A number of cases in which Planned Parenthood has been a party have reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Notable among these cases is the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the case that sets forth the current constitutional abortion standard. In this case, "Planned Parenthood" was the Southeast Pennsylvania Chapter, and "Casey" was Robert Casey, the governor of Pennsylvania. The ultimate ruling was split, and Roe v. Wade was narrowed but upheld in an opinion written by Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony Kennedy, and David Souter. Harry Blackmun and John Paul Stevens concurred with the main decision in separately written opinions. The Supreme Court struck down spousal consent requirements for married women to obtain abortions, but found no "undue burden"—an alternative to strict scrutiny which tests the allowable limitations on rights protected under the Constitution—from the other statutory requirements. Dissenting were William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Byron White. Blackmun, Rehnquist, and White were the only justices who voted on the original Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 who were still on the Supreme Court to rule on this case, and their votes on this case were consistent with their votes on the original decision that legalized abortion.[93] Only Blackmun voted to maintain Roe v. Wade in its entirety.

Other related cases include:

  • Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth (1976). Planned Parenthood challenged the constitutionality of a Missouri law encompassing parental consent, spousal consent, clinic bookkeeping and allowed abortion methods. Portions of the challenged law were held to be constitutional, others not.[94]
  • Planned Parenthood Association of Kansas City v. Ashcroft (1983). Planned Parenthood challenged the constitutionality of a Missouri law encompassing parental consent, clinic record keeping, and hospitalization requirements. Most of the challenged law was held to be constitutional.[95]
  • Planned Parenthood v. ACLA (2001). The American Coalition of Life Activists (ACLA) released a flier and "Wanted" posters with complete personal information about doctors who performed abortions. A civil jury and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals both found that the material was indeed "true threats" and not protected speech.[96]
  • Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood (2003). Planned Parenthood sued Attorney General Gonzales for an injunction against the enforcement of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. Planned Parenthood argued the act was unconstitutional because it violated the Fifth Amendment, namely in that it was overly vague, violated women's constitutional right to have access to abortion, and did not include language for exceptions for the health of the mother. Both the district court and the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed,[97][98] but that decision was overturned in a 5–4 ruling by the Supreme Court.[99]
  • Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (2006). Planned Parenthood et al. challenged the constitutionality of a New Hampshire parental notification law related to access to abortion.[100] In Sandra Day O'Connor's final decision before retirement, the Supreme Court sent the case back to lower courts with instructions to seek a remedy short of wholesale invalidation of the statute. New Hampshire ended up repealing the statute via the legislative process.[101]

Other court cases

In some states, Attorneys General have subpoenaed medical records of patients treated by Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood has gone to court to keep from turning over these records, citing medical privacy and concerns about the motivation for seeking the records.[102]

In 2006, Republican Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline released some sealed patient records obtained from Planned Parenthood to the public. His actions were described as "troubling" by the state Supreme Court, but Planned Parenthood was compelled to turn over the medical records, albeit with more stringent court-mandated privacy safeguards for the patients involved.[102] In 2007, Kline's successor, Paul J. Morrison, notified the clinic that no criminal charges would be filed after a three-year investigation, as "an objective, unbiased and thorough examination" showed no wrongdoing. Morrison stated that he believed Kline had politicized the attorney general's office.[103] In 2012, a Kansas district attorney dropped all of the remaining criminal charges against the Kansas City-area Planned Parenthood clinic accused of performing illegal abortions, finding that the practices of the clinics were "within accepted practices in the medical community." In all, the Planned Parenthood clinic had faced 107 criminal charges from Kline and other Kansas prosecutors, all of which were ultimately dismissed.[104]

In Indiana, Planned Parenthood was not required to turn over its medical records in an investigation of possible child abuse.[105] In 2005, Planned Parenthood Minnesota/North Dakota/South Dakota was fined US$50,000 for violating a Minnesota state parental consent law.[106] In 2012, Judge Gary Harger ruled that the state of Texas may exclude otherwise qualified doctors and clinics from receiving state funding, if the doctors or clinics advocate for abortion rights.[107]

Debate and opposition

Margaret Sanger and eugenics

Further information: Margaret Sanger § Eugenics

In the 1920s, various theories of eugenics were popular among intellectuals in the United States. (For example, 75% of colleges offered courses on eugenics.)[108] Sanger, in her campaign to promote birth control, teamed with eugenics organizations such as the American Eugenics Society, although she argued against many of their positions.[109][110] Scholars describe Sanger as believing that birth control and sterilization should be voluntary, and not based on race.[111] Sanger advocated for "voluntary motherhood"—the right to choose when to be pregnant—for all women, as an important element of women's rights.[112][113]

As part of her efforts to promote birth control, however, Sanger found common cause with proponents of eugenics, believing that she and they both sought to "assist the race toward the elimination of the unfit."[114]

Critics of Planned Parenthood often refer to Sanger's connection with supporters of eugenics to discredit the organization by associating it, and birth control, with the more negative modern view of eugenics.[115][116] Planned Parenthood has responded to this effort directly in a leaflet acknowledging that Sanger agreed with some of her contemporaries who advocated the voluntary hospitalization or sterilization of people with untreatable, disabling, hereditary conditions, and limits on the immigration of the diseased. The leaflet also states that Planned Parenthood "finds these views objectionable and outmoded" but says that it was compelled to discuss the topic because "anti-family planning activists continue to attack Sanger ... because she is an easier target" than Planned Parenthood.[117]


Planned Parenthood has occupied a central position in the abortion debate in the U.S., and has been among the most prominent targets of the United States pro-life movement for decades. Some members of Congress, overwhelmingly Republicans, have attempted since the 1980s to defund the organization,[46] nearly leading to a government shutdown over the issue in 2011.[118] Planned Parenthood has consistently maintained that federal money received by Planned Parenthood is not used to fund abortion services, but pro-life activists have argued that the federal funding frees up other resources that are, in turn, used to provide abortions.[46]

Planned Parenthood is the largest single provider of abortions in the U.S.[119] Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards has argued that the organization's family planning services reduce the need for abortions.[120] Megan Crepeau of the Chicago Tribune said that, because of its birth control and family planning services, PPFA could be "characterized as America's largest abortion preventer."[121] Anti-abortion activists dispute the evidence that greater access to contraceptives reduces abortion frequency.[122]

Undercover videos by anti-abortion activists

Periodically, pro-life advocates and activists have tried to demonstrate that Planned Parenthood does not follow applicable state or federal laws. A 2005 review by the Bush administration's Department of Health and Human Services "yielded no evidence of clinics around the nation failing to comply with laws on reporting child abuse, child molestation, sexual abuse, rape or incest."[123] The groups called or visited Planned Parenthood health centers posing as victims of statutory rape,[124] minors who by law need parental notification before abortion,[123] racist donors seeking to earmark donations to reduce the African-American population,[42][125] or pimps seeking abortions for underage prostitutes.[126] As a result of some of these videos, several Planned Parenthood workers have been disciplined or fired.[125][126]

Live Action videos

Beginning in 2010, Live Action has released several series of undercover videos filmed in Planned Parenthood centers. Live Action said one series showed Planned Parenthood employees at multiple affiliates actively assisting or being complicit in aiding a prostitution ring,[127] advising patients on how to procure sex-selective abortions,[128] and one who said they would immerse a child born alive after a botched abortion in a chemical solution to make it stop moving and breathing.[129]

No criminal convictions resulted,[130] but some Planned Parenthood employees and volunteers were fired for not following procedure, and the organization committed to retraining its staff.[131] Additionally, one center was placed on probation.[132]

Center for Medical Progress videos

In 2015 the anti-abortion organization The Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released a number of videos that had been secretly recorded by actors hired by CMP. In the videos, the actors‍—‌who were posing as representatives of a fake biotechnology company‍—‌discussed acquiring tissue and organs from aborted fetuses with officials for Planned Parenthood, a non-profit organization that provides reproductive health services throughout the United States. The first round of videos were found to be highly edited; however, CMP subsequently released less edited, supposedly unedited, and at least one embellished video. CMP founder David Daleiden alleged that the videos provided evidence of a "criminal conspiracy to make money off of aborted baby parts reach[ing] to the very highest levels" of Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood condemned CMP's allegations as false, and stated that the videos had been deceptively edited. According to Planned Parenthood's spokespeople, all of the organization's tissue donations are made "with full, appropriate consent from patients and under the highest ethical and legal standards", and there is "no financial benefit" from these donations "for either the patient or for Planned Parenthood".

The videos and CMP's allegations attracted widespread media coverage and caused widespread protests, re-invigorating the long-running political debate over abortion in the United States. In response to the controversy, Congressional lawmakers considered several bills to defund Planned Parenthood, none of which have become law. Several states elected to cut contracts and funding for Planned Parenthood.

Multiple states—Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Kansas—initiated investigations and none have found that Planned Parenthood clinics have illegally handled tissues as alleged by CMP and Planned Parenthood's adversaries An investigation by the United States House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee found no evidence of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. A select committee, the United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce Select Investigative Panel on Planned Parenthood, was formed to further investigate Planned Parenthood. On October 13, 2015, Planned Parenthood announced that they would no longer accept reimbursement for fetal tissue donations.

Violence by anti-abortion activists

In the US, abortion providers have been threatened with death, and facilities that provide abortions have been attacked or vandalized.[133][134] Planned Parenthood clinics have been the target of a number of instances of violence by anti-abortion activists, including bombing, arson, and attacks with chemical weaponry.[146] In 1994, John Salvi entered a Brookline, Massachusetts Planned Parenthood clinic and opened fire, murdering receptionist Shannon Elizabeth Lowney and wounding three others. He fled to another Planned Parenthood clinic where he murdered Leane Nichols and wounded two others.[147] In 2012, a Grand Chute, Wisconsin, Planned Parenthood clinic was subject to a bombing perpetrated by an unknown individual.[134] In 2015, a Planned Parenthood clinic in Pullman, Washington was heavily damaged by arson.[148]

2015 shooting

On November 27, 2015, a gunman shot and killed two civilians and a police officer during a five hour gun battle at the Colorado Springs clinic.[149][150][151] The 57 year old gunman[152] surrendered to police and was taken into custody. During his arrest, he gave a "rambling" interview[153] in which, at one point, he said "no more baby parts", echoing language used in the news media about the clinic following the Center for Medical Progress videos.[154][155][156]

See also


  1. ^ Planned Parenthood "dates its beginnings to 1916" but a predecessor, the American Birth Control League, was not founded until 1921 and the organization did not adopt its name until 1942


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Further reading

  • Manon Perry, Broadcasting Birth Control: Mass Media and Family Planning. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2013.

External links