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Champions of Reproductive Rights

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Margaret Sanger

Margaret Sanger was born on September 14, 1879, the sixth of eleven children. After her mother died from tuberculosis, Sanger suspected that her mother’s frequent pregnancies contributed to her death.  She became a lifelong advocate of reproductive rights and family planning.

In 1916, Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the United States. Ten days after opening, the clinic was raided and Sanger was arrested and spent thirty days in prison. The publicity surrounding her arrest and closure of the clinic gave Sanger an opportunity to engage supporters and create a national movement for birth control reform. Sanger appealed her conviction and an appellate court exempted physicians from the Comstock law. This gave Sanger the opportunity to open the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau, a legal birth control clinic in 1923 that was staffed by women, provided contraceptives to women, and collected accurate statistics to prove contraceptives’ safety and long-term effectiveness.

The year before, Sanger incorporated the American Birth Control League, which dealt with the global issues of world population growth, disarmament, and world famine. The Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau and the American Birth Control League later merged and became Planned Parenthood Federation of America.  

Vice Admiral Regina Marcia Benjamin

In 2009, President Barack Obama announced his nomination of Vice Admiral Regina Marcia Benjamin, USPHS for Surgeon General of the United States and as a Medical Director in the regular corps of the Public Health Service.

As the first physician under 40 and the first African-American woman to be elected to the Board of Trustees of the American Medical Association, she is committed to making health care accessible for minority and rural communities.

Benjamin received her medical degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and completed her residency in family practice at the Medical Center of Central Georgia. She was the first member of her family to attend medical school, and said, “I had never seen a black doctor before I went to college.”

Benjamin entered a solo medical practice in Bayou La Batre, Alabama, an underserved area where approximately one out of five families lives below the poverty line. After earning an MBA from the Freeman School of Business at Tulane University, she converted her office to a rural health clinic. This clinic was destroyed in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina and in 2006 by a fire. She rebuilt her clinic both times, ensuring that people in rural areas had access to vital health care services. To ensure that she is able to care for as many people as possible, she traveled by pickup truck to care for the isolated and immobile in the community.