1970 December 24

Congress Passes Family Planning Services Act


With Title X of the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act, passed by Congress on this day, the federal government greatly expanded federal support for family planning services. President Richard Nixon signed the bill into law on December 26, 1970. President Lyndon Johnson had initiated the federal support part of his War on Poverty Program, and the first clinic opened on November 2, 1965.

Nixon and other leading Republicans in the 1960s and early 1970s were strong supporters of family planning, and government support for family planning services. That changed in the late 1970s when the Religious Right, with an anti-abortion agenda, became a powerful influence in the Republican Party, helping to elect Ronald Reagan president in 1980. The opposition to abortion extended to the use of contraceptives and sex outside of marriage.

The fight for public access to birth control devices and information was a long one. See, for example, the notorious 1973 Comstock Act (passed on March 3, 1873), which outlawed the distribution of devices and information for many decades. Margaret Sanger, the greatest birth control advocate in American history, opened the first birth control clinic in America on October 16, 1916. She was arrested a week later and served a one-month jail term for her crime. The Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law banning birth control devices on June 7, 1965, and established a constitutional right to privacy.

Learn about the long-term achievements in public health from family planning: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4847a1.htm

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