By Sarah Fielding
In 1916 Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. Five years later she created the American Birth Control League, now named Planned Parenthood. Today it operates over 650 clinics in the U.S., but Planned Parenthood’s abilities step far beyond what it is viewed as: an abortion clinic. On top of providing abortions, Planned Parenthood does cancer screenings, gives access to affordable contraception, tests for sexually transmitted diseases, among a number of other necessary, and life saving, procedures.
In total it contributes to the lives of 5.18 million people across the country. Generally this amount is largely filled with those from low income backgrounds who, without Planned Parenthood, would not have access to these services. According to Planned Parenthood, as of 2013, 78 percent of patients had an income at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty line, the equivalent of $36,375 for a family of four.
In regards to abortions only three percent of health services are abortions. The organization does much more in the way of preventing pregnancies from occurring in the first place. Approximately 516,000 unwanted pregnancies are averted each year because of contraceptive services.
Cecile Richards has been president of Planned Parenthood since 2006. She is an outspoken activist for women’s health and has worked to to stop the closures of and hate against it. While president, she wrote an essay for Elle magazine admitting that she and her husband had an abortion. She wrote that they already had three children and it wasn’t a difficult decision to know they didn’t want anymore.
This year Planned Parenthood celebrates it’s 100th anniversary and it still has as many obstacles in it’s way as ever. On November 27th, 2015, a deranged man attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. Two people were killed, none of whom worked at the clinic, and nine others were injured. Claiming to be a “warrior for the babies” his goal was to stop the abortions from happening. Another wave against Planned Parenthood has been the continual closure of more and more clinics, particularly in the southern states. This has been, at times, for financial reasons but more often has been at the discretion of the state. In 2015, 53 abortion clinics closed and 81 percent of clinics that were open 25 years ago, are now closed.
Planned Parenthood is an amazing organization that does a tremendous amount to better the lives of women (and men!) around the United States, and the rest of the world. It stands as a beacon of opportunity for many who have little else. When any clinic closes it is a travesty that must work to be prevented as often as possible. It deserves another 100 great years, and hopefully Congress sees that as talk of cutting funding still circulates.