Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas, now known as Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, opened its doors in February of 1936 under the name Maternal Health Center of Houston. Under the direction of Agnese Carter Nelms and her brother-in-law Dr. Judson L. Taylor the Maternal Health Center was dedicated to helping poor and indigent women in Houston receive health care and an education on family planning. The original purpose of the Maternal Health Center was stated as, “to establish and maintain a free medical clinic for the use and benefit of mothers and prospective mothers of the City of Houston and to furnish mothers and prospective mothers of Houston free medical advice on maternal health” (Anderson 8). Eventually, through Agnese Nelms’ tireless work and advocacy of family planning and the birth control movement, the Maternal Health Center gained the support of many of Houston’s prominent community leaders. The first board of directors included many of Houston’s elite, and the wealthiest and most successful businessmen and their wives, such as Mrs. Will Clayton, Maurice and Susan McAshan, the Rev. J. Elmer Ferguson, Rosalie Farish, and Mrs. John Bullington (11 Anderson).
Birth control and family planning remained controversial for the next several decades and the Maternal Health Center volunteers kept the clinic alive through word of mouth and door-to-door grass roots campaigning. They remained loosely affiliated with the American Birth Control League, which eventually became the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1942. This affiliation with the American Birth Control League would lead, ultimately, to the incorporation of the Maternal Health Center with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
In the late 1940s the Maternal Health Center was renamed to the Planned Parenthood Center of Houston, and after the legalization of birth control with the Supreme Court’s 1965 Griswold vs. Connecticut decision the Center grew to include many satellite clinics and thus renamed itself to Planned Parenthood of Houston.
The institution continued to grow, adding vasectomy clinics, more women’s clinics and focusing on public outreach and education, until it merged with several other Planned Parenthoods in Texas to become, in 1978, Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas. By 1984 the organization was seeing as many as 60,000 patients a year (5 Molan).
In 2010 Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas was renamed again to the Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast as it absorbed clinics in Louisiana and other areas of Texas. It continues to grow, expanding its public education and outreach services, expanding sex education access in schools and offering low cost health care, contraception and counseling and abortions. Its slogan remains “every child a wanted child.”
Anderson, Maria Helen. Private choices vs. public voices: The history of Planned Parenthood in Houston. Diss. Rice University, 1998. Dissertations & Theses: Full Text, ProQuest. Web. 2 Dec. 2010.
Molan, Michelle R. Proud of our past planning the future: 50 years of Planned Parenthood. Houston, TX: Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas, 1986.