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 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 Stuart v. Camnitz, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the decision of a North Carolina District Court that declared a controversial ultrasound mandate for abortions unconstitutional in 2014. The ultrasound mandate was a part of the Woman’s Right to Know Act introduced in North Carolina in 2011, which placed several restrictions on abortion care providers in the state. If enforced, the ultrasound mandate would have required physicians to perform an ultrasound on every patient before an abortion and simultaneously describe the resulting image of the fetus regardless of whether the woman wanted to hear the description. The District Court ruled the mandate an unconstitutional violation of physicians’ free speech rights. The Fourth Circuit Court’s decision to affirm the District Court’s ruling established that the state could not compel healthcare providers to recite what the court called state ideology to patients against their medical judgment, which broke with precedent set by prior rulings by the Fifth and Eighth Circuit Courts in similar cases.
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.
The North Carolina state legislature passed The Woman’s Right to Know Act in 2011, which places several restrictions on abortion care in the state. The Woman’s Right to Know Act, or the Act, imposes informed consent requirements that physicians must fulfill before performing an abortion as well as a twenty-four hour waiting period between counseling and the procedure for people seeking abortion, with exceptions for cases of medical emergency. Then-governor of North Carolina Beverly Perdue initially vetoed House Bill 854, which contained the Act, but the state legislature overrode her veto to pass the bill. In response to a lawsuit that the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, and other organizations filed in 2011, a US district court judge blocked the law’s ultrasound mandate from going into effect and a later court case determined that the mandate was illegal. With the passage of the Act in North Carolina, the state passed several abortion regulations and mandated that abortion providers must inform women of specific details about their pregnancy before performing the abortion procedure.
In January 2014, Mary Gatter and colleagues published “Relationship between Ultrasound Viewing and Proceeding to Abortion” in Obstetrics and Gynecology hereafter “Ultrasound Viewing.” As of 2021, ten states require women to undergo an ultrasound before they may consent to having an abortion. Self-described pro-life organizations assert that viewing an image of the fetus will dissuade women from having an abortion. The authors reviewed women’s medical records from over fifteen thousand visits to one abortion provider in 2011.The authors determined viewing an ultrasound image did not change the minds of women who were already highly certain that abortion was the right decision, challenging the idea that mandatory ultrasound viewing has any effect on women’s decision to have an abortion.
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.
Barry Morris Goldwater was a Republican Arizona Senator and US presidential candidate in the twentieth-century whose policies supported the women's reproductive rights movement. Goldwater, a businessman and Air Force reservist, transitioned into politics in the 1950s. He helped align popular support for a conservative Republican Party in the 1960s. Throughout his life, he worked to maintain personal liberty and to limit governmental intrusion into citizens' private lives. Goldwater, influenced by his wife Margaret (Peggy) Goldwater, supported women's rights to abortions. Goldwater's advocacy and support for reproductive rights assisted in the foundation of the Planned Parenthood chapter in Phoenix, Arizona, and for national policies promoting birth control and abortion rights.
The 1973 case Nelson v. Planned Parenthood Center of Tucson established the legality of abortion in Arizona. The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that the Arizona Revised Statutes 13-211, 13-212, and 13-213, collectively called the Arizona abortion statutes, were unconstitutional. The statutes had made illegal receiving, providing, or advertising abortions. After the Arizona Appeals Court heard the case, it decided that the Arizona abortion statutes were constitutional. However, two weeks later the US Supreme Court decided in Roe v. Wade (1973) that abortion was constitutional at the federal level. The Arizona court followed the precedent set by the US Supreme Court and amended its decision to rule that the Arizona abortion statutes were unconstitutional. Afterwards, Planned Parenthood, other family planning clinics, and hospitals were legally allowed in Arizona to advertise, discuss, and offer abortions as an option to their patients.