Planned Parenthood’s Origins

Amidst today’s hearing on Planned Parenthood in Congress, I thought it might be useful to look into its origins. I immediately thought to take a look at Margaret Sanger’s Wikipedia page and found her legal fights telling of what the world looked like without Planned Parenthood: 

 Margaret Sanger, a nurse who was the first president of the organization, had a series of legal fights before Planned Parenthood was formed. In 1916, she was charged for distributing contraceptions in her clinic in Brownesville, Brooklyn. Sanger was sentenced to 30 days in a workhouse, protested by going on a hunger strike and became the first woman to be force fed in the United States. 

 In 1918, Sanger’s appeal of her conviction set the precedent that exempted physicians from laws that prohibited the distribution of information about contraception. Her American Birth Control League proclaimed these principles in 1921:

We hold that children should be (1) Conceived in love; (2) Born of the mother’s conscious desire; (3) And only begotten under conditions which render possible the heritage of health. Therefore we hold that every woman must possess the power and freedom to prevent conception except when these conditions can be satisfied.

Over the next two decades, Sanger would write letters and give lectures in favor of birth control. She ordered a diaphragm from overseas in 1932, violating a law that forbid physicians from ordering contraceptions. She would win that appeal in 1936. Sanger’s efforts with a variety of lobbying organizations and contraception providers would culminate in Planned Parenthood’s formation in 1946.

Sanger’s beliefs are often described as radical by opponents of abortion but you could also use that term to describe a world where writing about or purchasing contraception is considered a crime.


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