Our mission: Planned Parenthood of Western New York provides reproductive and family health care, promotes responsible and healthy sexuality, and protects choice.
Our history: Early birth control advocates promoted individual responsibility. In fact, the desire of Americans to control their fertility provided a market for books that described birth control methods. These 19th Century manuals indicated that Americans wanted information about safe and effective contraceptives but repressive laws made the acquisition of the information difficult.
In fact, it was little more than 100 years ago that contraception was included in an obscenity law passed by the legislature of New York State. In 1873, the Congress enacted statutes excluding information about contraception from the U.S. mail.
Even at the beginning of the 20th Century unwanted pregnancies remained a chronic condition, especially among the poor. Estimates are that some 25,000 women died from complications of illegal abortions each year. With one pregnancy following another, many young mothers died in childbirth and those who survived 11, 12 or 13 pregnancies often developed chronic ailments. Many died before their fortieth birthdays.
The problem was how to get this information to the women who needed it. It was in this quest that Margaret Sanger, a visiting nurse who knew the misery of the victims’ uncontrolled births, began her life-long effort to establish a nationwide system of birth control clinics where women could obtain reliable contraception and reproductive health care. Margaret worked aggressively to help the poor with what she saw as their greatest hope, the means to prevent the incessant births that drained mothers physically and families financially.
During this passionate campaign, which began in 1913 upon opening her first clinic in New York City, Sanger was arrested twice. She turned to suffragettes, trade unionists and other influential people hoping that they, too, would see the importance of family planning to their causes. She founded the American Birth Control League, the predecessor of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
In 1933, two privileged Buffalo women reacted to high infant and maternal mortality rates and were inspired by the efforts of Sanger, who had spoken in Buffalo just one year earlier. The two founded the Family Relations Institute with the efforts and generosity of Mrs. Esther Sawyer and Miss May Carter. This program sought to help large families and the poor take control their family size.
Four years later, in 1937, the Niagara Falls Maternal Health Association was founded in Niagara Falls, NY. The first medical office was generously donated by Mrs. Paul Schoelkopf and the medical services were donated by two courageous doctors and one registered nurse.
In those early days, eligibility for patients was confined to those who were married, had one child, and had an income less than $30 per week and a medical reason for needing contraceptives. Both the Niagara Falls centers and the Buffalo area centers became Planned Parenthood agencies during the 1940s.
In 1960, birth control finally won a substantial measure of social and official acceptance. From apathy and hostility, public opinion overwhelmingly endorsed family planning and changes took place rapidly. In 1970, legislation to support family planning was authorized by the federal government, and public funds were allocated to help people obtain family planning services.
In 2006, the merger of Planned Parenthood of Buffalo & Erie County and Planned Parenthood of Niagara County, created Planned Parenthood of Western New York. Incorporated on November 2, 2006, Planned Parenthood of Western New York carries with it the rich history of two venerable not-for-profit organizations.
Planned Parenthood of Western New York, Inc. continues as a non-profit, private agency with five health center locations, a mobile outreach unit and a teen drop-in center. Licensed by the New York State Department of Health, it is nationally affiliated with Planned Parenthood Federation of America and is supported by private contributions, patient fees, third party reimbursements and government grants.
Our clinic clientele includes anyone who needs and wants our services. Our fees are based on a sliding scale relative to income and family size. Dedicated to building strong, stable families, we continue to work to assure that children are born healthy and loved!