My Frustrating Years in Family Planning

By Donald A. Collins | 15 March 2023
Church and State

(Photo: Miki Jourdan / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

When, at the instigation of my wealthy donor employer, in about 1967 I joined the National board of Planned Parenthood and attended my first meeting in Cincinnati. That first afternoon, I sat quietly and apprehensively in a chair not at the board members’ table until the board chair Marcia Romberg said, “Mr. Collins, will you please come and be seated at the main table”. Later as the meeting closed to allow time until the scheduled board dinner, I heard one board member say to another woman “What is he doing here?” Certainly not an unjustified comment although the prospect of my foundation’s grants which subsequently came in copious amounts had prompted PPFA’s senior officials to welcome my presence.

My own prior experience with family planning was indeed limited but troubling.

In 1962 at the birth of our third and intended final child, my wife’s Catholic OB/Gyn refused her request for a birth control method. She went to a Planned Parenthood clinic and was fitted with a diaphragm while the staffer there also suggested I use condoms. Perhaps a stroke of luck, as the birth control pill, approved by FDA in 1960 needed years to attain the low dose progesterone levels best suited for long term use, while our combined IUD/condom method worked well.

However, I had no real knowledge of the controversial history which started in the US with the 1873 passage of the Comstock Act which banned birth control for decades.

Read about that here.

I was vaguely aware that a woman named Margaret Sanger had instigated what was a successful if incomplete advocacy for birth control, but I had little idea of the full extent of political opposition to family planning choices or that efforts to change that situation would become a major personal pursuit for me from then onwards!

You likely know her history but might find it interesting to read more here.

I won’t detail here how I have since evolved politically, socially and emotionally except to say I was early on aware that providing safe, affordable women’s birth control was a benign route to curbing unwanted pregnancies in the US and the world, as population numbers raced to the highest levels in human history—now in the world there are 8 billion people up from 2 billion since 1930–with dangerously unrecognized and unacted upon implications for sustainable life on our small planet.

From 1965 until now I have had the opportunity and privilege to meet and associate with the real heroes of this pioneering efforts to work to achieve such equity.

I will omit trying to list here the names of those brave enlightened people for fear of omitting deserving advocates that I knew and still know.

I never met Margaret Sanger who died in 1966 shortly after being attacked on TV by Mike Wallace whose views on women’s places in our society mirrored the typical male attitudes which many males seem to think should still be prevalent.

For example, the death this week of Pat Schroeder who served eleven terms in the US House of Representatives until 1997, allowed the attached 3/15 Washington Post obituary to tell her valent pursuit for sexual equity.

Her comment during her long and often frustrating tenure when asked by a male House colleague how she managed to serve in Congress and raise 2 children is classic!

“I have a brain and uterus and can use them both”.

Read about her huge impact on women’s rights here.

Our right wing Catholic controlled Supreme Court which killed Roe, which killed the national right for women to obtain safe abortions on June 24, 2022, may get to decide on the availability of FDA approved birth-control pills. This outrageous case and its possible impact should stimulate all voters to eschew such dangerous religious based rulings in a society whose Constitution demands that matters of church and state should remain carefully separated, again allowing for choice.

Read here about this Texas case which could be brought before the Supreme Court:

Three billion more people are projected to be added to the present 8 billion number by 2100, but one must wonder how they will survive, given the increasingly unfavorable conditions of climate, environment, and growing conflicts between nations.

I have written often about this situation which is leading to increasing likelihood for what has been called the 6th Extinction which you can find further information about here.

Frustrating? Indeed, because every underlying adverse condition which now so imperials future life on earth was exacerbated by the plethora of human numbers. This might still be allayed if only sufficient understanding led to urgent action now.

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC, has spent over 50 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of “From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013”, “Trump Becoming Macbeth: Will our democracy survive?”, “We Humans Overwhelm Our Earth: 11 or 2 Billion by 2100?”, “What Can Be Done Now to Save Habitable Life on Planet Earth?”, “Vote”, “Can Homo Sapiens Survive?”, “Will Choice and Democracy Win?” and “Can Our U.S. Survive 8 Plus Billion of Us”.

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