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Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), commonly shortened Planned Parenthood, is the U.S. affiliate of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and one of its larger members. PPFA provides reproductive health and maternal and child health services. Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Inc. (PPAF) is a related organization that lobbies the U.S. political system for pro-choice legislation, comprehensive sex education, and access to affordable health care.

The organization has its roots in Brooklynmarker, New Yorkmarker where Margaret Sanger opened the country's first birth control clinic. Sanger founded the American Birth Control League in 1921, which changed its name to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. in 1942. Since then, it has grown to more than 850 clinic locations in the United States, with a total budget of approximately US$1 billion, and provides an array of services to over three million people.

Dealing with sexuality, the organization is often a center of controversy in the United States. The organization's status as the country's leading provider of surgical abortions has put it in the forefront of national debate over the issue. Planned Parenthood has also been a party in numerous Supreme Courtmarker cases.

History and organization

Planned Parenthood traces its origins to 1916 when Margaret Sanger opened the first American birth control clinic in Brooklynmarker, New Yorkmarker. The organization began as the American Birth Control League and was incorporated in 1923. The League was influential with laws concerning birth control throughout the 1920s and 1930s. In 1942 the League was reorganized as Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc.

Faye Wattleton was president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America from 1978 to 1992, the longest term in the organization's history since Sanger. During her term in office, the organization expanded considerably and became publicly focused on working for women.

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

Facilities and funding

PPFA is a federation of 94 independent Planned Parenthood affiliates around the United States. These affiliates together operate more than 850 locations, offering a variety of information and procedures to more than three million people, including: abortion, contraceptive (birth control); emergency contraception; screening for breast, cervical and testicular cancers; pregnancy testing and pregnancy options counseling; testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases; comprehensive sexuality education, menopause treatments; vasectomies and tubal ligations, and more. Not all procedures are available at all locations.

Planned Parenthood describes itself as "the nation's leading sexual and reproductive health care advocate and provider." In 2007, contraception constituted 36% of total services, STI/STD testing and treatment constituted 31%, cancer testing and screening constituted 17%; other women's health procedures, including pregnancy, prenatal, midlife, and infertility were 11%, and approximately 3% of total procedures involved surgical and medical abortions. Planned Parenthood affiliates performed 305,310 medical and surgical abortions in 2007, up from 289,750 in 2006.

Planned Parenthood receives about a third of its money in government grants and contracts ($349.6 million in FY 2008). In the 2007–08 Annual Report, clinic income totaled $374.7 million and miscellaneous operating revenues $68.9 million. Planned Parenthood is also heavily sponsored by private individuals, with over 700,000 active individual contributors. Large donors such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation contribute a substantial part of the organization's budget. Pro-life groups have long advocated the boycott of these private organizations.

Some pro-life organizations have lobbied federal lawmakers to halt government funding for Planned Parenthood.

Stand on political and legal issues

Planned Parenthood and its predecessor organizations have provided and advocated for access to birth control. The modern organization of Planned Parenthood America is also an advocate for reproductive rights, including the right to abortion. This advocacy includes contributing to sponsorship of abortion rights and women's rights events and assisting in the testing of new contraceptives. The group opposes restrictions on abortion, including:
  • laws requiring parental consent or notification for girls under the age of 18 (or 17 in some states) to have an abortion
  • laws requiring an ultrasound before abortion (many Planned Parenthood clinics perform, but do not require, ultrasounds)
  • laws requiring a waiting period (ranging from a couple of hours to a day or more)

Planned Parenthood argues for the wide availability of emergency contraception (EC) measures, and opposes refusal clauses (also called conscience clauses) which would allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense contraceptives if doing so would conflict with their personal beliefs. Planned Parenthood has also been critical of hospitals that they claim obstruct access to EC for rape victims. Planned Parenthood supports and provides FDA-approved abortifacients such as mifepristone.

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

Controversy and criticism

Pro-life groups have accused Planned Parenthood of failing to report potential cases of statutory rape, or following parental notification laws in some states. Although there are few known instances of actual broken laws, some pro-life activists have invented stings to substantiate their claims:
  • In 2002 a pro-life activist, posing as a 13-year-old impregnated by her 22-year-old boyfriend, called over 800 clinics requesting an abortion. The Texas group claimed over 90% of the clinics agreed to her request not to report the boyfriend to the police for statutory rape. In December 2008, Planned Parenthood suspended a nurse after Live Action Films, a University of California, Los Angelesmarker pro-life student organization, released an undercover investigative video showing the nurse at an Indiana Planned Parenthood clinic encouraging a young woman, who was posing as a 13-year old girl impregnated by a 31-year old man, to lie about the age of her partner to avoid reporting statutory rape under Indiana law.

  • In 2007, The Advocate magazine (not The Advocate), which is run by Live Action Films, called Planned Parenthood offices in several states, offering to make donations if the money can be earmarked to abort black women's babies. The calls included one in July 2007 to Planned Parenthood of Idaho offering a donation if it could be earmarked for abortions for black women because, "the less black kids out there the better." Answering the phone call, the state organization's vice president of development and marketing said, "Understandable, understandable" and continued, "Excuse my hesitation, this is the first time I've had a donor call and make this kind of request, so I'm excited and want to make sure I don't leave anything out." Planned Parenthood of Idaho's CEO later issued a statement saying that the officer "violated the organization's principles and practices" and was suspended. Planned Parenthood's mission specifically prohibits racial discrimination.

The Focus on Planned Parenthood newsletter stated, "Most of the Planned Parenthood employees who took these calls quickly ended the conversation," those who didn't hang up had a "serious lack of judgement," and to remedy this "our national federation has put forth a Donation Acceptance Policy" but that policies already in place made it impossible for the two employees in this case to have actually earmarked the money for a woman of any specific race(s), even if the caller posing as a racist actually had finalized and sent the pledged donation. They added that the "entrapment" involved "a 30-minute conversation...edited down to about three minutes" where the conversation started about a normal non-racial donation but the caller later indicated the racist intent for the donation. The editor of The Advocate stated that Planned Parenthood of Idaho and the six other states were selected, in part, for having laws that allow single party approval of taped telephone conversations.

  • Planned Parenthood has received criticism for withholding court-subpoenaed medical records of patients. Planned parenthood defended its refusal on the grounds of medical privacy. Cases in Indiana and Kansas remain unresolved. In October 2005, Planned Parenthood Minnesota/North Dakota/South Dakota was fined $50,000 for violation of a Minnesota state parental notification law.

Planned Parenthood and 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 Supreme Court of the United Statesmarker.

Notable among these cases is the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, where Planned Parenthood is the Southeast Pennsylvania Chapter, 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, with Justices Harry Blackmun and John Paul Stevens concurring with the main decision in separately written opinions. The Supreme 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. 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

  • July 1976: Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth. This was a constitutionality challenge by Planned Parenthood to 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. Syllabus, Opinion, one Concurrence, and two Concurrence & Dissent statements
  • 1983: Planned Parenthood Association of Kansas City v. Ashcroft. 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.
  • 2001: Planned Parenthood v. ACLA. The American Coalition of Life Activists (ACLA) released a flier and “Wanted” posters with complete personal information about doctors who performed abortions. Through the release of the information, the ACLA promoted controversy and called people to action. A civil jury and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals both found that the material was indeed "true threats" and not protected speech.
  • January 2006: Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. docket link This relates to a constitutionality challenge by Planned Parenthood et al. of a 2003 New Hampshiremarker parental notification law related to access to abortion. Questions before the Court Opinion of the US First Circuit Court of Appeals leading to the Questions before the Court 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.

See Also


  1. New York University
  2. Planned Parenthood was one of the co-sponsors of the March for Women's Lives held April 25, 2004.
  3. Planned Parenthood has been engaged in large scale tracking of the effectiveness and safety of mifepristone within its clinics.
  4. Emergency Contraception - Planned Parenthood
  5. Refusal Clauses: A Threat to Reproductive Rights - Planned Parenthood
  6. Obstructing Access to Emergency Contraception in Hospital Emergency Rooms - Planned Parenthood
  7. Focus on Planned Parenthood, Spring 2008
  8. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey

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