Science Agenda: Protect Women's Health; June 2012; Scientific American Magazine; by The Editors; 1 Page(s)
Almost 100 years ago Margaret Sanger opened a tiny birth-control clinic in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, N.Y. Poor Yiddish- and Italian-speaking women, overwhelmed by large families that they could not support, would come for advice about how to avoid pregnancy and the dangers of horrific, sometimes life-threatening, self-administered abortions. The clinic taught women to use the diaphragm. Nine days after it opened, Sanger and two other women who ran the center were jailed for violating a New York State law that prohibited contraception.
This clinic eventually grew into Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest nonprofit supplier of reproductive health services to women and men. A century after its founding, the organization is again at the heart of one of the most divisive issues in American political life. It has come under attack by Republican presidential candidates seeking to revoke the group’s federal funding—almost half of its $1-billion budget comes from federal and state sources. Last year the House of Representatives voted to withdraw some of its support, although the measure was not sustained in the Senate. (Backing for the group, initiated under the Nixon administration, has not always been a partisan issue.) In March, Mitt Romney, the GOP’s presumptive presidential candidate, vowed to end federal funding if elected. This is a worrying prospect for both women and public health.