National Partnership for Women & Families

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Planned Parenthood president marks 100th anniversary with call to action

"Over the last century, thousands of volunteers -- from sex educators to clinic escorts --have helped build Planned Parenthood into [the] leading sexual and reproductive health provider and advocate in the U.S.," Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards writes in a Time opinion piece.

Sunday marked Planned Parenthood's 100th anniversary, and significant progress has been made during that time, according to Richards. "Birth control, as well as access to safe and legal abortion, has opened up possibilities for women's lives that few could have imagined in 1916," she writes.

For example, she explains "while maternal mortality still affects far too many, and in particular black women, it is no longer a leading cause of death." Richards writes that "because contraception is more effective, more accessible and more affordable, the U.S. is at a 30-year low for unintended pregnancy, and a historic all-time low for teen pregnancy." She continues, "This progress has allowed women to become half the workforce, more than half of undergraduate students and earn half of all doctorate degrees."

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 95 percent of sexually active U.S. women have used contraception. "And at every step of the way, Planned Parenthood was helping lead the way to better access to reproductive care," Richards writes.

She adds, "For 100 years, generations of doctors, clinicians, educators and activists have continued what [Planned Parenthood's founders] started -- challenging unfair laws, innovating and leveraging the best medicine, and continuously expanding our ability to provide care to people, no matter who they are or where they live."

According to Richards, the organization has grown from one storefront in 1916 to almost 650 clinics today, serving 2.5 million patients annually. Planned Parenthood has also been a provider of abortion care since it was legalized in the United States in 1973, and the organization has "fought every effort to roll back our rights." Moreover, Richards notes that "Planned Parenthood Global provides support to more than 100 partner organizations in Africa and Latin America that ensure access to sexual and reproductive health and education to more than 1 million people."

"Still, our work is far from complete, and our history is uneven and imperfect," Richards writes. She explains, "Too often, as progress was made for some in securing access to reproductive health and rights, others were denied those gains." According to Richards, "In 2016, too many people still go without access to safe and legal abortion and other basic preventive care," maternal mortality rates are increasing and "too many young women of color do not have equal access to affordable and effective contraceptives."

"If our first century was about securing our rights, our second century must be about ensuring everyone has full access and also full reproductive autonomy," Richards writes. "One hundred years in, we are proud of our legacy -- and we are just getting started."

She concludes, "In our second century, we're not settling for rights in name only, or for only a few. We will build a world where neither income nor zip code nor race nor gender determines whether a person can get reproductive care, where no one is shamed for making their own sexual and reproductive health choices" (Richards, Time, 10/14).