Century serving women

By Dayle Steinberg

The Philadelphia Inquirer

On Sunday, Oct. 16, Planned Parenthood commemorated its 100-year anniversary. One hundred years ago, a small group of reform-minded women came together to enable other women to realize their dreams and aspirations by providing them the care and information they needed to plan their families and their futures – to empower them to live the lives they imagined and achieve their educational and vocational goals.

The first birth-control center was opened in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn and women lined up for a full city block to get information on how to prevent pregnancy. This information was illegal at the time, and its distribution on pamphlets at 10 cents each was revolutionary. From this single brownstone in Brooklyn grew a movement. There are now 650 Planned Parenthood health centers across the country, and one in five women in the United States has received care at Planned Parenthood.

Revolution and innovation now live on cellphones and laptops, and there are more than 72 million visitors to Planned Parenthood Online every year. There are apps for sexual-health information, online scheduling tools for appointments at our health centers and text-chat programs for one-on-one advice. You can order a sexually transmitted disease testing kit from your phone, text a health educator in real time, and track your period and birth control with Planned Parenthood’s Spot On app.

Change agent

Planned Parenthood is proud of its role as a change agent for women and their families. Birth control, once out of reach, is now widely available. Abortion, once a crime, is safe and legal. Compassionate health care that was once focused on a woman’s ability to plan and space pregnancy now includes competent care for people no matter their gender or sexual orientation.

But despite the gains that have been made, access to quality, affordable health care can still be determined by income level or ZIP code. One in two sexually active people will contract an STD and many of them won’t immediately know it. Unintended teen pregnancy rates are declining in the United States but are still much higher than in most of the industrialized world. Forty-three years after the Roe v. Wade decision, far too many women still face insurmountable barriers to abortion. And, legislators continue to make politically motivated attacks on reproductive health care while women pay the price.

For 100 years, Planned Parenthood has helped shape and lead a sexual “evolution,” forever changing the way that people think and talk about sex, sexuality, and the right to control their bodies. From the first birth-control clinic, to the first birth-control pill, from the fight for the right to an abortion to securing coverage for birth control under the Affordable Care Act, we have advanced health care and education for generations.

Our next 100 years will be equally transformative. Planned Parenthood will build on our proud legacy to launch our second century with as much passion, courage and conviction as our first. Working alongside our partners in the reproductive health, rights and justice community, we will demand that sexual and reproductive rights be recognized as human rights, secure unfettered access to health care and education, and ensure that all individuals are able to choose their own personal paths to healthy and meaningful lives.

Dayle Steinberg is president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania.