Women’s health care is again one of the most heated and politicized issues in the United States, especially leading up to the 2016 election year. Specifically, contraception and abortion rights has managed to stir controversy for more than 100 years. No organization knows this better than Planned Parenthood (PP).
The first birth control clinic opened by Margaret Sanger in 1916 led to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood of today, as well as many decades of legislation that sparked ongoing controversy and polarization. In 1965 the Supreme Court struck down the Connecticut state law that prohibited using contraception—which also meant contraceptives were legal. In 1970 Nixon signed Title X into law to provide federal funding for family planning services. Then there was 1973’s Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling, a key for abortion rights.
What started as a focus on contraception—providing it and simply (and legally) talking about it—turned into a national and global women’s health-care provider and advocate for almost a century. One in five women will go to a PP at some point in life, whether for an STD screening, annual preventive care, abortion, or other family-planning services.
In its 2013 to 2014 annual review, Planned Parenthood reported teen pregnancy rates at their lowest in 20 years. They also funded more than 70 research projects in long-acting reversible contraceptives and HPV vaccines. Plus, they provided 487,000 breast exams.
While Planned Parenthood serves millions annually, the Wilmington center cared for more than 1,500 people from February 23 to October 14 alone. “Planned Parenthood in South Atlantic serves about 25,000 patients in North Carolina,” says its media specialist Sarah Eldred.
Despite the numbers and positive outcomes, each generation of progress is met with some opposition. Just after Sanger opened her first clinic in Brooklyn, an undercover police posed as a mother who couldn’t afford to have more children. Sanger sold her a pamphlet about contraception and STDs, and was arrested. In the 1950s and 1960s PP was accused of establishing more clinics in poor, black neighborhoods than white ones. They were also accused of coercing young women into birth-control choices they objected to.
The most recent allegations in 2015 were that Planned Parenthood profited from abortions and illegally selling fetal tissue. These allegations were based on videos that were recorded—and believed to be doctored—by anti-abortionists. Ultimately, this led to the organization’s decision to no longer accept any reimbursement at health centers involved in fetal-tissue research.
Nevertheless, the health-care centers remain trustworthy places for women and families to seek help. “Recent polling [NBC News/Wall Street Journal] has shown that Planned Parenthood is more popular than any political candidate running for president right now,” Eldred says. “That’s no surprise given the thousands of patients we help every year just here in North Carolina.”
Yet, our state senate voted 41-3 in September for a provision in the state budget to ban the selling of body parts and donation of fetal remains for medical research, except in the case of natural miscarriages. The bill’s sponsor, Wake County Republican Sen. Chad Barefoot, directly sites the videos in an interview with the News & Observer.
Still, patients seek out Planned Parenthood not only for its high-quality services but its nonjudgmental care. Across the nation and locally, there actually has been an increase in not only monetary donations, but people volunteering, calling legislators and standing with Planned Parenthood in any way possible.
Committed to keeping the Wilmington doors open, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic will host an annual fundraiser, Rock Around the Clock, on Saturday, Oct. 24, at the Hannah Block Community Arts Center (120 S. 2nd St.) in downtown Wilmington. The event stems from the Friends of Planned Parenthood committee, who created the first “Dancing Through the Decades” series in 2013.
“The first event, a ‘40s dance, was held on the [USS] Battleship North Carolina in 2013, and was well-attended and received,” says Mitchell Price, director of donor engagement. “[After this year’s ‘50s theme,] the next time around will be the ‘60s.”
Theming the fundraiser series around time periods acts as a reminder to when women’s health care was “less-than informed,” such as with limited to no sex education and advocacy. In a 2013 article, The Atlantic reviewed a 1953 instructional film for doctors treating female patients experiencing menopause. Presented by the Schering Corporation, the film details treatment options from “mild sedation” to estrogen hormonal therapy that could turn the “patient’s frown upside down.”
“I think we do want to send a message that while the music and clothes of the 1950s may have been fun, the policies and attitudes surrounding abortion and women’s health in general were not,” Eldred says.
This isn’t the first time Planned Parenthood advocates used a bit of tongue-in-cheek forms of support and protest. “We had a protest in the General Assembly last session where a bunch of Planned Parenthood supporters dressed like our favorite characters from the show ‘Mad Men,’” Eldred remembers. “That had a similar effect of sending a message that we refuse to go back in time when it comes to women’s health—no matter how determined politicians are in setting a lot of progress back.”
Rock Around the Clock will have a ‘50s prom punch to it, with everything from maltshop milkshakes to the decked out, retro-styled gym of Hannah Block. Pompadours and poodle skirts are encouraged. “We have a DJ to make sure we get all the hits from the ‘50s,” Price continues. “There will be snacks, like sliders and fries, popcorn and cake squares.”
Proceeds will help provide local education and medical services provided at Planned Parenthood South Atlantic (1925 Tradd Court). Attendees can purchase ticket “classes” ($40 to $80 individually, or $150 for a pair) or sponsorship levels from Teenagers in Love $200 to the All Shook Up $2,500. “We created a special ticket to encourage young professionals to attend; hence the ‘Born After Elvis’ (1977 and beyond) ticket,” Price says. “The additional levels above the normal ticket price are for sponsors. All sponsors will receive a keepsake photo and recognition at the event.”
For tickets and sponsorships, visit www.RockAround.ppsat.org