1939 January 18

Birth Control Federation Founded, Forerunner of Planned Parenthood


At the 18th annual meeting of the American Birth Control League (ABCL), Margaret Sanger’s organization, the group agreed to merge with the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau to create the Birth Control Foundation of America. The new group eventually adopted the name Planned Parenthood Foundation, by which it is known today.

Margaret Sanger, the founder of the birth control movement in America, was reportedly furious when the name “Planned Parenthood” was adopted. Throughout her career, she had always refused to accept the use of euphemism for the term “birth control.”

Sanger had a long and often tumultuous career as the nation’s leading birth control advocate. Her magazine, Woman Rebel, was banned from the mails on April 2, 1914. She opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. on October 16, 1916, was arrested a week later, and sentenced to a month in jail for violating New York state law on February 2, 1917. On April 16, 1929 she was banned from speaking on birth control in Boston and appeared on stage that night with a gag over her mouth. A planned trip to Japan in 1949 was cancelled because of sensitivity over birth control on August 30, 1949, but she had a triumphal visit several years later.

Sanger’s organization, the American Birth Control League, evolved into today’s Planned Parenthood Federation (see January 18, 1939).

Over the decades, political attacks on birth control and Planned Parenthood continued. In the summer of 2015 an anti-abortion group, the Center for Medical Progress, released a series of videos which had been secretly recorded and then selectively edited to create the false impression that Planned Parenthood had been selling fetal tissue obtained from abortions. The videos sparked political attacks on Planned Parenthood from Republican Governors and presidential candidates. On September 29, 2015, Planned Parenthood Cecile Richards replied to criticisms of the organization in a long hearing before the House of Representatives.

Learn more about Margaret Sanger: Ellen Chesler, Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America (1992)

Learn more about Planned Parenthood today: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/

And more about Sanger: Jean H. Baker, Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion (2011)

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