Private choices vs. public voices: The history of Planned Parenthood in Houston
Anderson, Maria Helen
Doctor of Philosophy
Over the past half century the name Planned Parenthood has become a household term. As its leadership has struggled to create and maintain its identity and to keep it financially afloat, the organization has evolved. This is the story of one local affiliate: Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas. Planned Parenthood of Houston had its origins in the philanthropy of Houston's "white-gloved elite," and in the poverty of the Great Depression. It also found support in the courts, which by the 1930s were beginning to re-define the law of obscenity (to exclude contraceptives) and by the 1960s to define the right of privacy as broad enough to encompass the right of marital privacy. These judicial decisions would be crucial precedents to the landmark abortion case, Roe v. Wade, which legalized the right of abortion. Neither Planned Parenthood of Houston nor its parent organization, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, evolved in a social or legal vacuum. The purpose of this study is to illuminate the history of one affiliate as it grew from a tiny clinic for the poor to a large, powerful urban organization with an eclectic clientele and a number of satellite clinics, an organization in the vanguard of reproductive rights and technology. It also attempts to place Planned Parenthood's legal, institutional, and social history in the context of state and national public policies, and to illuminate ways that the innate federalism of the Planned Parenthood organization, individual's rights to privacy, and government policies intersected and sometimes clashed.
American history; Women's studies; Sociology; Individual & family studies