1970 December 26

President Nixon Signs Public Health Services Act – Federal Support for Family Planning


President Richard Nixon on this day signed into law the Public Health Services Act, which included federal support for family planning services. A Republican, Nixon was a strong supporter of government aid for family planning services. These services were contained in Title X of the law, and today discussions of the subject today refer to “Title X” funding.

In the early 1970s, President Nixon and many other Republicans supported government support for family planning services. That changed beginning with President Ronald Reagan, when the Republican Party embraced the neo-conservative social agenda that opposed abortion and government-supported family planning services.

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. Congress passed the first law providing federal funds for family planning services on December 24, 1970.

Nixon’s signing statement: “It is noteworthy that this landmark legislation on family planning and population has had strong bipartisan support. I am confident that by working together — at Federal, State, and local levels — we can achieve the goal of providing adequate family planning services within the next 5 years to all those who want them but cannot afford them.”

Learn more about Title X today: http://www.hhs.gov/opa/title-x-family-planning/

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

And more: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/ppaz/title-x-32393.htm

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