Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region, based in Austin, helped tens of thousands of people every year, providing a wide variety of services involving healthcare, birth control, counseling, and education. It began in 1937, when a number of local citizens organized the Maternal Health Clinic of Austin. Formally affiliated with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1947, the clinic was for many years a small, underfunded operation that struggled for acceptance and survival; it stayed afloat mainly due to the efforts of dozens of women and men who volunteered time and money so that the poor in Austin could have access to birth control.
The organization's activities expanded rapidly during the 1960s, however, in response to changing public attitudes about contraception and sex, concerns about the worldwide population explosion, new methods of birth control, Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, and the rise of a new spirit of social activism. By the early 1970s, the Austin Planned Parenthood affiliate was a vital and increasingly sophisticated organization poised to extend its activities even further. While the story of the early development of Planned Parenthood in the Austin area is unique in some ways, it is also a reflection of great cultural, social, and political trends that have shaped America and the world.
In later years, the Austin affiliate created many new services, including abortion counseling and vasectomy clinics. An ambitious education program attacked the growing problem of teenage pregnancies and engaged the public in a larger discussion about issues relating to human sexuality. The rise of renewed opposition in the late 1970s would for many years pose a bitter challenge to Planned Parenthood's positions on abortion, women's rights, and even simple birth control. But the organization had been facing, and overcoming, opposition since it was founded in 1937. With new opportunities and obstacles, supporters of Planned Parenthood in Austin could look to the past for inspiration and resolve.