The past and modern history of Planned Parenthood

Category:  News
Wednesday, March 21st, 2018 at 5:27 PM

People braved the blizzard on March 8 to attend a presentation about Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania as part of the Women’s History Month events at Edinboro University. 

The event covered the history of Planned Parenthood, as well as its current situation. Devin McLaughlin, an Edinboro University graduate student and an intern with the organization, gave the presentation. She was joined by Molly Brechtel, who shared her personal story about how she was helped by Planned Parenthood.

McLaughlin began her presentation with some trivia on the history of the organization, rewarding audience members with T-shirts for correct answers. She then delved into presenting that history herself. 

“Because it’s Women’s History Month, I wanted to talk about reproductive rights and reproductive care,” McLaughlin explained. “Because I think it’s a really important topic, especially in our current political climate.”

The Planned Parenthood story began in 1916 when Margaret Sanger and other activists were arrested for giving out birth control and information on it because obscenity laws at the time prohibited those actions. Then, in 1921, Sanger founded the American Birth Control League, which would be renamed Planned Parenthood in 1942.

“Then skip ahead to 1936, a district judge in New York struck down a federal law banning contraception,” McLaughlin explained. “So, birth control was not legalized until 1936.”

In 1973, abortion was legalized after Roe v. Wade when the United States Supreme Court ruled that a woman’s right to privacy is broad enough to extend to her decision as to whether to have an abortion or not, McLaughlin detailed.

“Then, in 1976…the Hyde Amendment cut federal funding for abortion and from Medicaid,” she explained. “So, this means that no tax dollars have been or can be used for abortion services, ever since 1976.”

The National Black Women’s Health Project, meanwhile, was founded after the National Conference on Black Women’s Health Issues at Spelman College in 1983. Now known as the Black Women’s Health Imperative, McLaughlin explained that Planned Parenthood likes working “with these types of organizations to make sure that their voices are uplifted.” 

McLaughlin concluded the first part of her presentation by speaking on Planned Parenthood’s interactions with the LGBT community. “We do work with the trans community and offer them hormone replacement therapy; we want to make sure that we’re advocating and serving all communities.”

The floor was then handed over to Brechtel who was there to share a very personal story. “To be honest with you guys, my Planned Parenthood story is that I have had an abortion,” she said. “I’ve also marched at a pro-life rally.”

She explained the difficulty of the process, both because of legal restrictions and the social pressures. She talked about both before the procedure and after, even admitting that she’s lost friends because of it. Regardless, Brechtel detailed her interactions with Planned Parenthood as positive: “It was kind of a support and a sense of understanding.”

McLaughlin returned to finish her lecture by describing ways for people to become involved with and support Planned Parenthood. “And then we’re hoping to bring student groups onto campuses in the area,” she concluded. “It would be great to get more students involved with Planned Parenthood generation action.”

Nathan Hirth can be reached at

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