The social and political history surrounding Planned Parenthood Arizona illustrates the interplay between politics and the reproductive rights movement throughout the twentieth century. The contextualization of major historical events during the development of Planned Parenthood Arizona gives insight into the current political and religious beliefs regarding the reproductive rights movement.
In the 1973 case of Roe v. Wade, the US Supreme Court ruled that laws banning abortion violated the US Constitution. The Texas abortion laws, articles 1191–1194, and 1196 of the Texas penal code, made abortion illegal and criminalized those who performed or facilitated the procedure. Prior to Roe v. Wade, most states heavily regulated or banned abortions. The US Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade secured women's rights to terminate pregnancies for any reasons within the first trimester of pregnancy. It also sparked legal discussions of abortion, fetus viability and personhood, and the trimester framework, setting a landmark precedent for future cases including Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1989), Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), and Stenberg v. Carhart (2000).
In the 1962 case Planned Parenthood Committee of Phoenix v. Maricopa County, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that Arizona Revised Statute 13-213, which banned the public advertising of contraceptive or abortion medication or services, was constitutional. However, the court also ruled that that Arizona Revised Statute 13-213 did not apply to Planned Parenthood's distribution of contraceptive information, allowing Planned Parenthood to continue distributing the information. Following the case, the Arizona law was challenged several times and eventually deemed unconstitutional in the 1973 case State v. New Times INC. The case Planned Parenthood Committee of Phoenix v. Maricopa County established that Planned Parenthood's distribution of medical literature was not advertising as described in the law, and it initiated a decade long discussion about the constitutionality of the laws preventing the distribution of materials related to contraception or abortion.
In the 1972 case Planned Parenthood Center of Tucson, Inc., v. Marks, the Arizona Court of Appeals required the Arizona Superior Court to rehear the case Planned Parenthood Association v. Nelson (1971) and issue a decision on the constitutionality of Arizona's abortion laws. In 1971, the Planned Parenthood Center of Tucson filed the case Planned Parenthood Association v. Nelson asking for the US District Court to rule on the constitutionality of the Arizona Revised Statutes 13-211, 13-212, and 13-213, which made it illegal for anyone to advertise, provide, or receive an abortion. The decision in Planned Parenthood Center of Tucson, Inc., v. Marks forced the Arizona Superior Court to issue a decision on the constitutionality of the Arizona abortion laws, and is one in a series of lawsuits that culminated in the legalization of abortion in Arizona in 1973.
Nearly seven decades ago, the US government established grants to the states for family planning and acknowledged the importance of enabling all women to plan and space their pregnancies, regardless of personal income. Since then, publicly-funded family planning services have empowered millions of women, men, and adolescents to achieve their childbearing goals. Despite the recognized importance of subsidized family planning, services remain funded in a piecemeal fashion.
In the case of Beal v. Doe, tried in 1977, the US Supreme Court ruled that states could constitutionally restrict money from Medicaid from funding elective abortions. After the 1973 case Roe v. Wade, in which the US Supreme Court had ruled women have the rights to terminate pregnancies within the first trimester, the state of Pennsylvania passed legislation that restricted the use of Medicaid funds for abortion procedures. In 1977, several Medicaid eligible women who were unable to receive coverage for a non-therapeutic abortion brought a case against Frank S. Beal, secretary of the Department of Public Welfare of Pennsylvania. The US Supreme Court decision in Beal v. Doe gave states the authority to place Medicaid restrictions on funding for non-therapeutic or elective abortions.
In the 1973 case State v. New Times, INC, the Arizona Court of Appeals in Phoenix, Arizona, ruled that Arizona Revised Statutes 13-211, 13-212, and 13-213, collectively called the Arizona abortion statutes, were unconstitutional. The statues made it illegal for anyone to receive, provide, or advertise abortion services. The Arizona Court of Appeals reviewed a case in which a city court in Tempe, Arizona, convicted the New Times, a newspaper headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, of advertising abortion. In hearing the case, the Arizona Court of Appeals deferred to the recently decided US Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade (1973). In Roe v. Wade, the US Supreme Court ruled that women have constitutional rights to abortion services within the first trimester of pregnancy. Accordingly, the Arizona Court of Appeals claimed that all of Arizona's abortion statutes, including the one the New Times was convicted of, prohibited no criminal acts, and set aside New Times's conviction.
Margaret Higgins Sanger advocated for birth control in the United States and Europe during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although people used contraceptives prior to the twentieth century, in the US the 1873 Comstock Act made the distribution of information relating to the use of contraceptives illegal, and similar state-level Comstock laws also classified discussion and dissemination of contraceptives as illegal. Sanger helped to repeal the Comstock Act and similar laws so that women could legally use contraceptives to control their fertility and the sizes of their families. In 1916, Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the US in New York City, New York. Later in life, Sanger formed several advocacy organizations that promoted access to contraception, including the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Sanger's advocacy increased women's access to contraception and helped change the United States' social and legal perceptions of birth control.
The Mother's Health Clinic opened in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1937 and provided women in central Arizona with contraception and family planning resources. A group of wealthy philanthropic Phoenix women founded the clinic under the guidance of birth control activist Margaret Sanger. The clinic was the second birth control clinic to open in Arizona and the first to serve the central and northern Arizona residents. In 1942, the clinic affiliated with the national organization Planned Parenthood Federation of America and eventually formed the Planned Parenthood of Central and Northern Arizona. The Mother's Health Clinic provided Arizona women with contraception and family planning at a time when birth control was not widely accepted or available.
Margaret Goldwater advocated for birth control and reproductive rights in the United States during the twentieth century. Goldwater was a socialite and philanthropist and was married to Barry Goldwater, US Senator from Arizona. She spent much of her life working to further the women's reproductive rights movement, which sought to expand women's legal, social, and physical access to reproductive healthcare, including contraception and abortions. Goldwater, with guidance from birth control activist Margaret Sanger, helped establish the second birth control clinic in Arizona, the Mother's Health Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona. She conducted large fundraising events and authored articles in local newspapers on the need for contraceptives and family planning. Goldwater's advocacy helped launch and sustain The Mother's Health Clinic, which became the largest provider of women's reproductive healthcare in Arizona, and it later became Planned Parenthood of Central and Northern Arizona.