Planned Parenthood

Grade Level: 
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Healthy Community
Human Rights
Planned Parenthood provides vital services for women and men across the country. Eighty percent of their services are focused on preventing unintended pregnancy, and they provide over 320,000 breast exams per year. Along with providing healthcare, Planned Parenthood also advocates for the protection of reproductive rights. Planned Parenthood locations try to focus on under-served communities. Therefore, over one-half of the Planned Parenthood centers in the United States are in rural and medically under-served areas. In these areas, the clinics provide basic healthcare as well as reproductive healthcare

Written by Lindsey Thompson



Planned Parenthood was started on October 16, 1916 by Margaret Sanger, Ethel Byrne, and Fania Mindell as a birth control clinic in Brooklyn, New York (Planned Parenthood 100 Years Strong). Today, their mission is to “to provide comprehensive reproductive and complementary health care services in settings which preserve and protect the essential privacy and rights of each individual, to advocate public policies which guarantee these rights and ensure access to such services, to provide educational programs which enhance understanding of individual and societal implications of human sexuality, and to promote research and the advancement of technology in reproductive health care and encourage understanding of their inherent bioethical, behavioral, and social implications” (Planned Parenthood).

In the present day, Planned Parenthood serves as an advocate and provider of women’s health. They have clinics in all 50 states that provide healthcare for women, including yearly exams, birth control, STD testing, pregnancy testing, abortion, and pregnancy counseling.

Planned Parenthood has established itself as a leader in the movement for women’s healthcare, serving 2.4 million people each year (Planned Parenthood).


Historic Roots

In 1916, the first Planned Parenthood clinic was established as a birth control clinic, although it was shut down 3 days later due to laws against sharing birth control information (Planned Parenthood 100 Years Strong). In 1923, Sanger founded the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau. This organization was dedicated to providing birth control as well as researching the safety and effectiveness of birth control devices (Planned Parenthood).

In 1936, the work of the organization and other birth control advocates culminated in a court ruling that birth control and information about birth control could be legally distributed in three states to unmarried women. In 1948, Planned Parenthood gave a grant to biologists to research a birth control pill which was FDA approved on May 9, 1960. Finally, in 1965, Griswold v. Connecticut ruled that married couples couldn’t be denied birth control (Planned Parenthood).

In 1970, Title X was established. It created public funding for family planning and sex education programs, helping Planned Parenthood provide more services for more people, including low income communities. In 1987, at the height of the AIDS Crisis, Planned Parenthood began providing free HIV testing (Planned Parenthood).
In the 2000s, Planned Parenthood expanded services. They began offering medication abortion as well as hormone replacement therapy for transgender patients (Planned Parenthood).



Planned Parenthood provides vital services for women and men across the country. According to their records, 2.4 million people visit their centers each year (Planned Parenthood). That means 1 in 5 women have visited a Planned Parenthood at least once. Eighty percent of their services are focused on preventing unintended pregnancy and they provide over 320,000 breast exams per year (Planned Parenthood).

Along with providing healthcare, Planned Parenthood also advocates for the protection of reproductive rights. They have been one of the nation’s strongest advocates for the availability of safe and legal abortions. They were also instrumental in changing laws to give women access to safe and legal birth control.

In 1996, Planned Parenthood created the Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPAF), which is a registered 401(c)(4) charity (Planned Parenthood 1). This arm of Planned Parenthood works to maintain legal reproductive health rights as well as support political candidates with the same mindset. In the 2014 election cycle, PPAF spent $6,587,100 on contributions to candidates and political parties (Jacobson 2015).

Planned Parenthood has also been active in the court system, challenging laws that they feel infringe upon reproductive rights.

  • Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth (1976): Planned Parenthood challenged a Missouri law that focused on parental consent, spousal consent, clinic bookkeeping, and abortion methods. Portions of the law were found unconstitutional (Legal Information Institute).
  • Planned Parenthood Association of Kansas City v. Ashcroft (1983): Planned Parenthood challenged a Missouri law over parental consent, clinic record keeping, and hospitalization requirements (Justia).
  • Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992): Set the current abortion standard when Planned Parenthood challenged Robert Casey, the governor of Pennsylvania. It narrowed the ruling of Roe v. Wade (McBride 2006).
  • Planned Parenthood v. ACLA (2001): The American Coalition of Life Activists (ACLA) released flyers and “Wanted” posters that included personal information of doctors who perform abortions. The materials were found to be “true threats” and not protected speech (American Civil Liberties Union).
  • Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood (2003): Planned Parenthood sued Attorney General Gonzales to stop the enforcement of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2000, claiming that the law was overly vague and made no exceptions for the health of pregnant women. Two courts agreed with Planned Parenthood, but the Supreme Court overturned the ruling (Biskupic 2007).
  • Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (2006): Planned Parenthood challenged a New Hampshire parental notification law regarding abortion access. The Supreme Court required that lower courts revise the law. New Hampshire finally repealed the law (Oyez) (Belluck 2007).


Ties to Philanthropic Sector

In addition to the important accomplishments of Planned Parenthood, they also ensure healthcare for low income women. Four out of five of their clients are at or below 150% of the federal  poverty line while 4 out of 10 report that Planned Parenthood is their only source of healthcare. Over one-half of their patients use Medicaid to pay for treatment (Planned Parenthood).

Planned Parenthood locations try to focus on underserved communities. Therefore, over one-helf of the Planned Parenthood centers in the United States are in rural and medically underserved areas. In these areas, the clinics provide basic healthcare as well as reproductive healthcare (Planned Parenthood).

The Planned Parenthood Action Fund works for advocacy of reproductive health issues. Through education, lobbying, and supporting candidates with similar views, they are attempting to improve access to healthcare for women (Planned Parenthood Action Fund).

Planned Parenthood receives its funding through several different forms. Forty-one percent of their money comes from government health services reimbursements and grants. Many of these payments are from government insurance programs such as Medicaid. Thirty-three percent of their funding comes from private donations, while 23% of revenue is brought in by non-government health services revenue, such as private insurance (Planned Parenthood).


Key Related Ideas

  • Feminism – Feminism is the idea that both sexes deserve social, political, and economic equality. Planned Parenthood was founded on this principal and much of its work is dedicated to ensuring women’s access to equal healthcare.
  • Reproductive Rights – Reproductive rights are based on the principle that all couples and individuals should have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children. In order to do this, they also deserve the right to correct information and means of preventing or terminating pregnancies. This is Planned Parenthood’s basic tenet.
  • Women’s Health Movement – This movement was started to improve women’s access to healthcare. It rests on the idea that women should be able to control their reproductive health as well as make informed decisions on healthcare. Planned Parenthood was born out of this movement.


Important People Related to the Topic

  • Cecile Richards – Current CEO of Planned Parenthood
  • Barack Obama – The 44th president of the United States who supported and protected Planned Parenthood’s funding through government healthcare reimbursements and grants.
  • Margaret Sanger – The founder of Planned Parenthood


Related Nonprofit Organizations

  • ACLU – A national organization dedicated to defending civil liberties through courts, legislatures, and communities, and they have been a key component in protecting Planned Parenthood’s Work
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – A grantmaking foundation that has supported Planned Parenthood’s work
  • Buffett Foundation – A grantmaking foundation that has supported Planned Parenthood’s work
  • Susan G. Komen – An organization working to find a cure for breast cancer. They offer contributions to Planned Parenthood to support breast exams and mammograms.


Reflection Question - In light of the national debate on abortion and women’s healthcare, should the work that Planned Parenthood does be protected?



  • American Civil Liberties Union. Planned Parenthood v. American Coalition of Life Activists.
  • Belluck, Pam. "New Hampshire to Repeal Parental Notification Law." The New York Times, June 07, 2007.
  • Biskupic, Joan. "High Court Upholds Ban." USA Today, April 18, 2007.
  • Fountain, Edmund D. "Planned Parenthood’s vital role in health care. Boston Globe.
  • Harvard Law. Planned Parenthood v. American Coalition of Life Activists.
  • Jacobson, Louis. "Carly Fiorina says Planned Parenthood gives 'millions' to candidates." Politifact.
  • Justia Law. Planned Parenthood Assn. v. Ashcroft 462 U.S. 476 (1983).
  • Legal Information Institute. Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth.
  • Oyez. Body Politic.
  • PBS. Casey V. Planned Parenthood.
  • Planned Parenthood 100 Years Strong. Planned Parenthood | 100 Years Strong.
  • Planned Parenthood. The History & Impact of Planned Parenthood.
  • Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
  • Planned Parenthood. What is Planned Parenthood's Mission Statement.


This paper was developed by students taking a Philanthropic Studies course taught at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University in 2017. It is offered by Learning To Give and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.