The American Birth Control League was established by Margaret Sanger in 1921, and she served as its president until 1928. Its first conference was held in New York City in 1921, timed to coincide with the convention of the American Public Health Association. Before the main event of the conference could be held, the entrance to the Town Hall Auditorium was closed by police through the instigation of the Catholic archbishop of New York. The closing of the meeting gave Sanger and her group national publicity and led to a rapid growth in the organization. By 1923 it had more than 18,000 dues-paying members and it needed a staff of from three to seven just to answer Sanger’s voluminous correspondence.
The main strategy of the organization was to open birth control clinics and provide, under medical guidance, contraceptive materials to all women who sought them. The control of the clinics by medical personnel was contrary to what Sanger had originally intended but she had come to believe that the only way to be successful in her task was to make concessions to the self-conscious professionalism of the physician. Her strategy was opposed by Mary Ware Dennett and the Voluntary Parenthood League. To emphasize physician importance, the American Birth Control League insisted on prescribing the diaphragm as the most effective means of birth control, a policy that also necessitated physician dominance under the laws of the time.
The American Birth Control League,founded by Margaret Sanger in 1921, later became the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The slogan “every child a wanted child” has not changed much in nearly a century.
As a result of Sanger’s ultimately successful strategy, both physicians and academics, many of them believers in eugenics, joined the organization. Increasingly the message of the American Birth Control League changed from simple emphasis on birth control to offering greater choice for all, and to emphasize this, in the 1930s the clinics began offering infertility therapy as well as contraception information.
In 1939 the American Birth Control League merged with the educational department of the Clinical Research Bureau and changed its name to the Birth Control Federation of America. In 1942 the name was again changed to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a name change opposed by Sanger. She later accepted the term as the movement became international and she was the first president of the International Planned Parenthood Federation organized in 1953.