In Connecticut, we got our start when Katharine Martha Houghton Hepburn (mother of actress Katharine Hepburn) and two of her friends, Mrs. George Day and Mrs. M. Toscan Bennett, met with Margaret Sanger when she came to Connecticut to address supporters and the merely curious at the Parson’s Theater in Hartford. On February 12, 1923 (exactly one day after hearing Margaret Sanger speak), the three friends formed the Connecticut Branch of the American Birth Control League.
The Rhode Island Birth Control League was founded in July 1931. Its health center was the first birth control center in New England and initially limited its activity to the dissemination of contraceptive information to married women.
Now named the Rhode Island Maternal Health Association, RIMHA moved to 433 Westminster Street in Providence. Basic GYN care included pap smears and breast examinations. Although more patients were coming for help, and services were expanded to include pre-marital counseling and fertility advice, the work was still controversial and social agencies were forced to remove the R.I. Maternal Health Association from their listings.
On November 10, 1961, Estelle Griswold, the feisty executive director of Planned Parenthood League of CT (PPLC) and C. Lee Buxton, M.D., the medical director of the clinic and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the School of Medicine, were arrested, convicted and fined $100 each. The two were arrested after opening a clinic in New Haven, CT that offered birth control counseling and prescribed contraceptives — violations of an 1879 statute that barred the use of any drug or instrument for preventing conception.
RIMHA petitioned Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) to become an affiliate of that organization. With this new affiliation came another name: Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island.
The now famous case Griswold v. Connecticut, reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Thomas Emerson, J.D. dean of the Yale Law School, and Catherine Roraback, J.D. represented PPLC. On June 7, 1965, the court ruled 7-2 that the Connecticut law of no birth control violated the constitutional right to marital privacy. That decision paved the way for later decisions, including Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the United States.
The Supreme Court rendered the landmark Roe v. Wade decision and legalized abortion.
President Bill Clinton worked to make abortion “safe, legal and rare.” He ended the “Gag Rule,” instituted by the Bush Administration, which prevented women using federally funded health centers — primarily poor women — from getting the information they needed to make informed choices about unintended or health-threatening pregnancies. President Clinton reversed the “Gag Rule” in his first week in office.
On April 18, 2007, the Supreme Court upheld the federal abortion ban in the cases, Gonzalez vs. Planned Parenthood and Gonzalez vs. Carhart. In one decision, the Court effectively overturned 30 years of precedent by criminalizing abortions performed in the second trimester of pregnancy and interfering in the decisions of women and families.
On October 1, 2009, Planned Parenthood of Connecticut and Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island merged, combining their operations into Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, Inc. (PPSNE).As PPSNE, we continue to work on the state and federal level to ensure access to reproductive health care for all, and we continue the long and storied fight against continual attacks on abortion.
“The pill” turned 50 in March 2010. Experts agree that although the first pill, Enovid, did not spark the sexual revolution as once believed, it and the contraceptive choices since have left an enduring impact on women’s rights, the consumer health movement and our culture. The pill and 50 years of birth control changed women’s lives.
In 2013, we celebrated 90 years of care to our community by acknowledging our trials and triumphs from the past while preparing for the road ahead. Moving forward, our priorities continue to focus on access, affordability, education and confidential and compassionate care for each of our patients. This is who we are.
We will expand our youth programs and our collaborations with schools, community groups, correctional facilities and other networks. Through Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and more, we will connect with and listen to young people of all backgrounds, building networks where conversations take place in real time, in their language and on their schedule.
We are here to make sure women’s health and family planning services remain protected under new laws in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Together we will ensure a brighter future for the women, men and young people of southern New England.