BILLINGS – What started as a group of volunteers in Billings has grown into five health centers across Montana.
This year, Planned Parenthood of Montana is celebrating 50 years of service.
“It’s a long time building that trust,” said Planned Parenthood of Montana president Martha Stahl.
Through the years and on a national scale, Planned Parenthood has seen no shortage of controversy as the issue of abortion continues to be a highly political topic, important to many people.
“Abortion is an issue that is deeply personal to people, and people have very strong feelings about it, very much tied to their values,” said Stahl. “I actually think that’s a wonderful thing.”
As thousands across the country continue to protest and rally for and against the issue of abortion, in many state capitals across the country, lawmakers are currently discussing requirements and limits.
In Georgia, lawmakers are discussing a contentious bill over abortion called the ‘heartbeat bill’ which would make ban abortions after six weeks or once a heartbeat is detected in a fetus.
In Maryland, there’s a measure to disqualify clinics, from federal funding if they include abortion referrals.
And in Montana, there are multiple abortion bills being discussed by lawmakers, one bill is proposing to ban abortions as early as eight weeks into pregnancy.
“Most people support Planned Parenthood. They support the care that we provide. They know about what it is we do. They want to see us continue to receive government funding for family planning care,” said Stahl.
Stahl said the foundation of Planned Parenthood happens through three main objectives: advocacy, education and healthcare.
“From the very beginning, Planned Parenthood of Montana was really about three things. And we still say those are really the three legs of the stool of Planned Parenthood,” she said.
In 1969, Planned Parenthood was started by a group of volunteers in Billings. Stahl says while the principles of the organization have stayed the same, many things have changed.
“The choices for birth control were very limited, and now we have a huge array of choices for patients,” said Stahl.
And, a dramatic number of Montanans served, said Stahl, with over 10,000 patients a year, coming from all types of backgrounds to Planned Parenthood for care.
“After 50 years we now see, of course, moms bringing in their daughters in and dads bringing their daughters and sons in but we also see patients that we saw their mother and we saw their grandmother,” said Stahl.
Stahl hopes folks will take the 50th anniversary events happening across the state to engage in what Planned Parenthood has to offer.
The organization serves as a vital role in education about sexuality and a resource for reproductive health, according to Stahl.
“What I go back to is those patients and thinking about the difference we’ve made in the lives of patients,” she said.
The 50th anniversary event takes place in Billings on Saturday at the Post at the Billings Depot at 5 p.m.