Planned Parenthood

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Planned Parenthood is the name of several federations of health clinics that are spread out across the world, (the International Planned Parenthood Federation, various regional federations, as well as country-specific ones) focusing on issues related to reproductive rights. It is both a reproductive services provider and a political organization that seeks to advance and preserve the legal status of the services it provides. It is a vocal political advocate of comprehensive sex education and holds a pro-choice position on the issue of abortion and expression of sexuality. This article focuses on the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA).


Facilities and funding

PPFA is a federation of 120 independent Planned Parenthood affiliates around the United States. These affiliates together operate nearly 850 locations, offering a variety of services to more than 5 million women, men and teens each year. Services include contraceptive (birth control) services; emergency contraception; screening for breast, cervical and testicular cancers; pregnancy testing and pregnancy options counseling; abortion services; testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases; sexuality education, menopause treatments; vasectomies and tubal ligations; and more. Not all services are available at all locations.

According to a recent statement from Karen Pearl, recent past interim president of PPFA, Planned Parenthood is the "largest source of reproductive health care in the (United States)".

Planned Parenthood receives almost a third of its money in government grants and contracts ($265.2 million in FY 2004). It received $306.2 million in clinic income that year, $191 million in private contributions and bequests, $40 million in other income and $7.6 million from the Alan Guttmacher Institute for a total of $810 million.

Organizations such as the American Life League, who disagree with Planned Parenthood's mission and services, have set up campaigns and petitions to stop Planned Parenthood from receiving government funding.

History and Organization

Planned Parenthood began as the National Birth Control League, which was founded in 1916 under the leadership of Mary Ware Dennett, a friend of Margaret Sanger, an outspoken proponent of eugenics. The organization was later renamed the American Birth Control League under the direction of Sanger, a birth control and family planning advocate who had been jailed numerous times for breaking New York's Comstock Laws against disseminating birth control information. Sanger had fled to England to avoid arrest at the time the National Birth Control League was founded. The League was influential in liberalizing laws against birth control throughout the 1920s and 1930s before changing its name to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. in 1942.

On February 15, 2006, Cecile Richards, daughter of former Texas governor Ann Richards, became president of the organization.

Stand on political and legal issues

Planned Parenthood has been an extremely vocal advocate of birth control and legalized abortion since the 1940's. This advocacy includes contributing to sponsorship of abortion rights and women's rights events such as the March for Women's Lives, and assisting in the testing of new contraceptives. The group opposes virtually every restriction on abortion, including but not limited to

  • laws requiring parental consent or notification for girls under the age of 18 (or 17 in some states) to have an abortion
  • "informed consent" laws that require patients be informed of possible links between abortion and breast cancer and infertility, despite scientific evidence to the contrary.
  • laws requiring an ultrasound before abortion (many Planned Parenthood clinics perform, but do not require, ultrasounds)
  • laws requring a pre-abortion waiting period (ranging from a couple hours to a day or more)

Planned Parenthood also opposes abstinence-only education in public schools. Instead, it favors (and offers) comprehensive sex education, which includes discussion of both abstinence and birth control.

Planned Parenthood and the US 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 Supreme Court.

Notable among these cases is the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, where Planned Parenthood is the Southeast Pennsylvania Chapter of PPFA, and Casey is the late Robert Casey, who was a pro-life Democratic Governor of Pennsylvania.

The ultimate ruling was a split plurality, in which Roe v. Wade was upheld in an opinion written by Justices Anthony Kennedy, Sandra Day O'Connor, and David Souter, all of whom were Republican appointees to the High Court, with Justices Harry Blackmun and John Paul Stevens (also Republican appointees) concurring with the main decision in separately written opinions. The High Court also struck down spousal consent requirements for married women to obtain abortions.

Dissenting were Justices William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Byron White, all of whom (save White) were Republican appointees. It should be noted that Justices Blackmun, Rehnquist, and White were the only justices who voted on the original Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 who were still on the High Court to rule on this case, and their votes on this case were consistent with their votes on the original decision that legalized abortion.

Other Notable Cases

  • Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England[1]. The case involved a constitutionality challenge by Planned Parenthood et al. of a New Hampshire parental notification law related to access to abortion [2] [3]. A District Court had sided with Planned Parenthood and invalidated the law, and the First Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld that decision. Over the objections of Democratic Governor John Lynch, New Hampshire's Attorney General appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which granted cert in 2005. The Supreme Court eventually punted the case back down to the lower courts with instructions to see if those courts could construct a remedy short of wholesale invalidation of the statute. Ultimately, the case was mainly notable for being the final decision delivered by Sandra Day O'Connor berfore her retirement from the Supreme Court.
  • Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth (1976). This was a constitutionality challenge by Planned Parenthood to a Missouri law encompassing parental consent, spousal consent, clinic bookkeeping and allowed abortion methods. Some portions of the challenged law were held to be constitutional, others not [4].
  • Planned Parenthood Association of Kansas City v. Ashcroft (1983). This was a constitutionality challenge by Planned Parenthood to a Missouri law encompassing parental consent, clinic record keeping, and hospitalization requirements. Most of the challenged law was held to be constitutional [PMID 12041276].

See also

External links

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