Planned Parenthood was started in Brooklyn, New York in 1916, when Margaret Sanger worked with several other women to start the first clinic in America that offered birth control. At that time, women could not receive birth control because they had virtually no rights; they couldn’t even have their own bank accounts or vote. There was also a series of laws passed in the late 1800s that stated that family planning was obscene. However, Sanger’s own mother had 11 children and died at 40 years old. She also worked as a nurse, so she worked directly with women who were suffering the health effects of being unable to use birth control. When the first clinic opened, women would line up outside, sometimes for hours just to obtain contraception. Sanger dealt with the legal backlash, including police raids, but continued with her pursuits to offer these necessary services to women.
In 1936, 18 years after the first clinic opened, Sanger was arrested for obtaining contraceptive products illegally. However, the judge on the case reviewed the data and ruled that the benefits of contraception were helping to avoid unwanted pregnancy as well as protect women’s health. A year later, the American Medical Association began to recognize contraception as a crucial part of health care, and women were then able to receive birth control without worry of legal repercussions. In the 1960s, with help from government funding, Planned Parenthood played a key role in the creation of intrauterine devices and the birth control pill, both of which are widely used for contraception by women. In fact, just four years after its creation, 25% of married women under age 45 had used the birth control pill to assist in family planning. Planned Parenthood was one of the first voices in women’s sexual and health rights, and continued to offer services to women that many physicians would not.