Birth Control Organizations - Planned Parenthood Federation of America


At a special membership meeting on January 29, 1942, the Birth Control Federation of America (BCFA) changed its name to Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA). The BCFA was established in 1939 through a merger of the American Birth Control League and the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau engineered by the management firm of John Price Jones, Inc. The name change reflected a redefinition of the organization's goals from family limitation to child spacing. While PPFA continued to function as the largest birth control organization in the country, it sought to position itself as a more mainstream and moderate organization committed to a broad range of programs related to reproductive health.

Under the leadership of National Director D. Kenneth Rose of the John Price Jones Company, the PPFA expanded its programs and services through the 1940s, adding affiliate organizations throughout the country. By the end of the Second World War, the Federation was no longer solely a center for birth control services or a clearing house for contraceptive information but had emerged as a major national health organization. PPFA's programs included a full range of family planning services, including marriage education and counseling, and infertility services. The leadership of PPFA, largely consisting of businessmen and male physicians, endeavored to incorporate its contraceptive services unofficially into regional and national public health programs by emphasizing less politicized aspects, such as child spacing. During the 1950s, the Federation further adjusted its programs and message to appeal to a family-centered, more conservative post-war populace, while continuing to function, through its affiliated clinics, as the most reliable source of contraceptives in the country.

From 1942 until 1962, the last year of Sanger's active participation in the birth control movement, PPFA concentrated its efforts on strengthening its ties to affiliates, expanding public education programs, and improving its medical and research work. It continued to operate a Negro Service and other rural health projects in the South through the early 1940s and working in conjunction with the Margaret Sanger Research Bureau (MSRB) and regional agencies, tested new contraceptives in the field. PPFA also gave financial assistance to the MSRB in return for the use of research facilities and its participation in cooperative research projects. By 1960, visitors to PPFA centers across the nation numbered over 300,000 per year. That number increased by a third in 1961 when the anovulant pill was introduced in most of the affiliated clinics. However, PPFA was not able to increase the number of its clinics in those years.

PPFA began focusing greater attention on global population issues in the 1950s as new concerns arose over the political, social and cultural implications of over-population in Asia and other parts of the world and became active in international birth control work through its membership in the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), which Margaret Sanger helped to found in 1952. National interest in population problems, spurred by the Draper report in 1959 (recommending U.S. assistance to foreign governments seeking population reductions), and the 1960 presidential elections, prompted PPFA to devote even more of its resources to international work, enlarge its training programs for visiting foreign doctors, and send field workers outside the U.S.. In 1961, the population-crisis debate, along with funding shortages, convinced PPFA to merge with the World Population Emergency Campaign (WPEC), a citizens' fund-raising organization that grew out of the IPPF-Western Hemisphere Region.

In changing its name to PPFA, the Federation signaled its shift away from Sanger's feminist focus on women's quest for reproductive freedom. Though she objected to the abandonment of birth control", a term she identified in name and spirit as reflective of women's empowerment, and characterized the organization as complacent and overly cautious, Margaret Sanger did agree to serve as the honorary president of PPFA. She also served on the board of directors and, until the mid-1950s, on the Long Range Planning Committee. Sanger still constituted the primary link between the PPFA and many of its major financial contributors. However, her work with PPFA focused largely on efforts to develop an oral contraceptive pill (Sanger helped arrange funding for much of the early research on the anovulant pill) and on PPFA's international work. Not until the mid-1960s did PPFA reassert its primary commitment to championing women's reproductive rights.

Organizational Structure, Major Departments and Committees

Affiliates (Membership):

State and local planned parenthood organizations which were certified by the Federation. PPFA required that the constitution, by-laws and policy of an Affiliate organization be consistent with that of the Federation. Each Affiliate appointed two delegates to represent it at all member meetings, including the annual membership meeting. Affiliates received a variety of assistance from the Federation -- depending on their staff size and budgets -- including educational materials, visits from field workers, and program proposals. Rules and regulations governing Affiliate members and the process of affiliation changed periodically and resulted in a fluctuating number of Affiliates. The Federation also encouraged various forms of individual membership.

Board of Directors:

Usually consisted of between 45 and 75 state representatives and directors-at-large who were responsible for the management of the Federation, including the appointment of officers, the adoption of the annual budget, and the supervision of the national director and committees.

Budget and Finance Committee:

Approximately 9 or 10 members, including several officers, directors, and appropriate committee chairman who recommended an annual budget and were responsible for investing the Federation's funds.

Clergymen’s Advisory Committee:

National Committee that coordinated relations between PPFA and the religious community. Specifically, the Committee worked with the National Council of Churches, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the World Council of Churches, among other groups. The Committee also assisted in developing educational materials and issued public statements on religious support for family planning.

Executive Committee:

Approximately 10 members, usually including directors, several officers, and committee chairman who managed the organization and retained the powers of the Board of Directors between directors' meetings.

Field Committee:

Delegates representing each Affiliate member. The Committee coordinated relations between the Federation and its affiliates, reviewed policies governing affiliation, and recommended new members to the Board of Directors.

Field Department/Field Service:

Field workers primarily visited local committees and state leagues to help improve and develop their programs. The Department also coordinated field work projects such as the Negro Project, and other rural health projects, including work with migrant workers; and supervised committees such as the Clergymen's Committee, the Committee on Work with Negroes, and the Social Work Advisory Committee.

Fund Raising Committee/Campaign Committee:

Approximately 7 members, including the Budget and Finance Committee chairman and officers and directors who coordinated the Federation's annual fund-raising campaign.

Human Fertility:

Published articles about research on contraception, sterility, and other biological aspects of reproduction. The journal was initially published from 1935 until 1939 by the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau under the title Journal of Contraception. The journal was discontinued in 1945.

Long Range Planning Committee:

Developed the program of the organization, working closely with the other committees, along with providing proposals for revisions to the by-laws and constitution.

Medical Committee:

Medical professionals ranging in number from approximately 12 to 25 who were responsible for developing all phases of the medical program, including formation of medical procedures and policy, the formulation of a research program, and the appointment of a medical director and National Medical Council. The Committee also worked to win the endorsements of and improve relations with national medical organizations.

Medical Council/National Medical Advisory Council:

Considered issues of broad policy and advised the Federation on specific medical problems.

Medical Department:

Under the direction of the Medical Committee and medical director, carried out educational campaigns in medical and nursing schools and public health departments, field demonstrations and testing of new contraceptive products, and the development of educational materials on contraception and infertility, among other work.

National Advisory Council:

A small group of prominent citizens organized to advise PPFA and improve the public image of birth control. The Council was disbanded and replaced by the Medical Advisory Council shortly after the Federation changed its name in 1942.

Nominating Committee:

Approximately 5 members (including at least two directors) who were responsible for nominations to the Board of Directors.

Public Information Department/Publicity/Education:

Provided news releases, scripts, articles, pamphlets, and other educational material for the general public and the press; assisted local committees and state leagues with securing speakers; produced educational films, exhibits and public outreach programs; and handled public relations problems.

Research Committee/Biologic Research Committee/Social Research Committee:

Experts in their field who proposed and helped supervise various research projects, and allocated funds for research conducted outside of the Federation. The research committees also organized symposiums and conferences.

Special Projects Department:

Coordinated the Negro Project (Division of Negro Service) which supervised demonstration projects in black communities in the South, including Berkeley County, North Carolina and Nashville, Tennessee; and worked to publicize health problems of African Americans and the scarcity of contraceptive services in black communities. The Special Projects Department also organized the Clergymen's Committee and supervised the Public Progress Committee, which undertook letter writing campaigns and funded specific programs at the Federation. The Department was phased out in 1943 when its chief administrator, Florence Rose, left the Federation.

Staff and Officers:

A national director, medical director, approximately 9 officers, and a small administrative staff that fluctuated in number. The national director was responsible for the administration, interpretation and development of the Federation's program; for personnel decisions; and for overseeing much of the fund-raising. The medical director was responsible for developing medical programs in accordance with the Medical Committee. The officers generally consisted of an honorary chairman, a chairman of the Board of Directors, president (later changed to chairman), vice presidents (varied in number; later changed to vice chairman), a secretary, and a treasurer.

PPFA's organization structure included many other smaller and short-term committees and councils, including: Annual Meeting, Nurses, Personnel, Post-War, International, By-Laws Revision, Lasker Awards, Travel, Manuals and Policy Revision, Minorities, Directorship, Headquarters, Review, Affiliates, Public Relations, PPFA-MSRB, and Study Committees, among others.

PPFA Staff, Officers, Board and Select Committee Members