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100 Years Old and Here for Good

By Sarah Stoesz, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota

The Foundation has supported Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota as well as Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles with operating grants since 1974.

Women lined up down the street and around the block in a neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY on a gray October morning 100 years ago.  They lined up to get a pamphlet –illegal at the time – with information about birth control.  Margaret Sanger was inspired to pass out those pamphlets, and be jailed for doing so, because of the many women she’d nursed – women who had many more children than they could care for and support and whose own health was at risk from too many pregnancies.  Her action that October day sparked a movement and before long dozens of clinics popped up from Denver to Detroit and New Haven to Minneapolis.

This is our story.  It is our collective story.  From day one, supporters of Planned Parenthood have been organizers and problem-solvers – they’ve been risk-takers.   And they’ve done it so Planned Parenthood could provide reproductive health care to countless women and men.  We believe that all people, regardless of circumstance, deserve access to quality, affordable health care so they can make their own decisions about if and when to have children; and to live their lives free of violence and discrimination based on their race, gender, faith, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability.

We have come a long way since those illegal birth control pamphlets.  But now in our second century, we are facing one of the greatest challenges in recent times.  In one of Congress’ first acts of 2017, Speaker Paul Ryan announced a plan to defund Planned Parenthood, cutting off health care for the millions of low-income women, men, and young people who rely on Planned Parenthood for essential preventive health care. If this plan succeeds, it will have devastating consequences.

The proposal would deny any patient that relies on Medicaid for their insurance the option of choosing Planned Parenthood as their health care provider.  Federal Medicaid has never been able to be used to cover abortion care, only family planning services.  This effort specifically targets low-income people who are already struggling to get by, and tells them they can no longer turn to Planned Parenthood for health care. In Minnesota alone, 24,000 Planned Parenthood patients use Medicaid insurance to access their care. And for many of those patients, Planned Parenthood is their only source of health care. For more info, click HERE.   Why are we asking people to give up their chosen clinic for one that government tells them to use?

Planned Parenthood is an essential part of our state’s and our country’s safety net. More than half of Planned Parenthood’s clinics are in rural areas, many of which lack adequate primary care providers. Our clinics are an irreplaceable resource for our communities, offering critical preventive health care services including lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, and STD tests—care that allows people to take charge of their health and plan the trajectory of their lives.

We’ve had many calls from patients worried and fearful that their health care will go away. We simply cannot let that happen.

The false claims made by politicians that other health care providers could serve Planned Parenthood patients are simply wrong. The idea that other providers could absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients has been resoundingly dismissed by experts. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, has called the idea “ludicrous.” Experts have explained that there is no way for other health care providers to meet the tremendous need for health care in Minnesota without Planned Parenthood. We’ve had many calls from patients worried and fearful that their health care will go away. We simply cannot let that happen.

 Defunding Planned Parenthood is not what the American people want. They don’t want to see reproductive health care attacked. Nineteen national polls have shown that Americans overwhelmingly support Planned Parenthood. And 48% of Trump’s own supporters are opposed to defunding Planned Parenthood.

Supporters here in Minnesota have been stepping up and showing that they don’t want Planned Parenthood to go away. Community members have organized comedy shows, house parties, dance parties, yoga classes, and community events in support of Planned Parenthood. Thousands of new volunteers and donors have been reaching out to us, eager to stand strong and take action on behalf our patients.  Millions of people who share Planned Parenthoods’ values marched on the U.S. Capitol and in St. Paul and in cities across the country and globe.

It is critically important that we stand together and do whatever it takes to fight for our values. We will not stop fighting for our patients. Together, we are immigrants, people of color and indigenous, white,   people of all faiths, LGBTQ, people with disabilities, and everyone else who needs access to health care in a safe and welcoming place.

We will join arms with our patients, partners, donors, activists, and supporters to fight for the rights of all people. Our patients absolutely need birth control, cancer screening and sex education but along with the Phillips Family Foundation we know they also need good jobs, a living wage and to live in communities free of violence and without fear their families will be torn apart. They need clean water, quality education, and safe, affordable housing.  We need to join together to uphold the ideals of community we share.

Planned Parenthood has faced challenges throughout our 100 years.  We’ve always joined together as a community to insure that our patients receive the high quality sexual and reproductive health care that will help them lead healthy and meaningful lives. We will do our work and stand up for our patients as we always have, but together with our supporters and partners we need to do it more fervently, more generously, more whole-heartedly, more courageously and more loudly.  Planned Parenthood is here for good.

About Planned Parenthood

Through its 19 clinics and Online Health Center, Planned Parenthood of Minnesota and the Dakotas provides reproductive health care to 64,000 people and comprehensive sex education to an additional 41,000 each year across Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Planned Parenthood is able to thrive in this region because of the legions of supporters, activists, donors and partners, including the Phillips Family Foundation that have kept the movement alive and insured that Planned Parenthood is there to care for women, men and young people with respect and without judgment.


About Sarah Stoesz

Since 2001 Sarah Stoesz has served as president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota. Over her tenure, Stoesz has focused on providing expert, patient-centered care, tripling the size of the organization and expanding access to reproductive health care and education across the region.




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