Planned Parenthood celebrates centennial
Foes continue to bristle but group has strong Dem support
NEW YORK >> Planned Parenthood’s 100th anniversary celebrations this weekend come with a sense of relief for the group that traces its roots to a time when women could not vote and contraception was illegal. The organization, whose services include birth control, sex education and abortions, has survived largely intact in the face of violence, vilification and fierce efforts in Congress and many states to cut its funding.
There’s been some adverse impact: In Texas and Wisconsin, for example, some Planned Parenthood facilities closed after the states cut off funding streams. But most of the Republicanled defunding efforts have been thwarted, and multiple investigations related to the disposition of fetal tissue have thus far failed to prove wrongdoing on Planned Parenthood’s part.
Meanwhile, the organization has received strong backing from the Democratic Party, including presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and says support from the public is robust.
“The attacks have only strengthened our resolve,” said Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards. “I do believe we are in a stronger place today than a year ago, or five years ago.”
Planned Parenthood’s foes, who denounce its role as the nation’s leading abortion provider, show no signs of relenting. Eleven anti-abortion groups issued a joint statement depicting the 100th anniversary as “a tragic milestone for our nation and a reminder of the millions of unborn children who will never have a birthday.”
However, opponents also express some frustration at Planned Parenthood’s lobbying and fundraising skills.
“They put themselves in role of martyr while at the same time making money hand-over-fist,” said Kristi Hamrick of Americans United for Life.
Planned Parenthood dates its beginnings to Oct. 16, 1916, when Margaret Sanger, her sister and a friend opened America’s first birth control clinic in Brooklyn. It was a challenge to mores and laws of the time, four years before the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote.
The clinic was raided, and Sanger was convicted of disseminating birth control information. Undaunted, she founded two organizations that later merged to form the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Sanger’s personal legacy is complicated. She opposed abortion — and yet the organization she founded now provides about one-third of America’s estimated 1 million annual abortions.
Over the decades, Planned Parenthood played pivotal roles in easing laws against contraception, popularizing the birth control pill and setting the stage for the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that established a woman’s right to have an abortion.
Its clinics have been repeated targets of bombings, arson and protests. Last November, a gunman killed three people and injured nine at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado. The man charged with the attack said he acted because of his opposition to abortion.
Threats against the organization escalated in mid-2015 after an anti-abortion group called the Center for Medical Progress began releasing secretly recorded videos alleging that Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue to researchers for a profit in violation of federal law.
Investigations by several states and congressional panels produced no evidence of wrongdoing.
An anti-abortion protester stands on a ladder overlooking a Planned Parenthood office waving anti-abortion literature and a rosary in the direction of a person entering the reproductive health clinic in Albuquerque, N.M., in 2013.