Planned Parenthood Ottawa’s History

Planned Parenthood Ottawa began on the wrong side of the law.

In 1961, when it was still illegal to provide information about birth control, a core group of people formed the Ottawa Society for Population Planning (as we were originally known). While busy breaking the law, our first goal was to bring about the repeal of the Criminal Code to legalize birth control. We became Planned Parenthood Ottawa and incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1964.

In its first years, PPO provided “family planning” information and referral services by phone and distributed a newsletter containing information from around the world. Very quickly, we helped enough people that a clinic seemed to be the next logical step. After much discussion and volunteer hours, the first “underground” clinic opened on June 5, 1968 in the basement of the Knox Presbyterian Church. A year later it moved, and by November 1969 the weekly evening clinic was so overcrowded that another evening was added. When the Criminal Code was amended a short time later, the clinic bloomed. With funding from the city’s Health Unit, PPO helped between 140 to 150 people a week.

Over the years, programming has expanded and changed dramatically. Although the clinic ended, many other programs grew to meet emerging needs. Some programs – like our Sexual and Reproductive Health training – have been constants, but we saw increased need to provide information to youth. Our Insight Theatre/Théâtre des Lueurs program began in 1982, the same year that Teen Info Jeunesse – the Teen Health Bus – began travelling around the city. For 35 years, we received funding from the United Way Ottawa to provide sexual health education in schools across the city.

Our Pregnancy Options program has been an important part of PPO activities since 1996. This program, a contracted service of Ottawa Public Health, provides free one-on-one counselling to anyone facing an unplanned pregnancy. We create a safe place to explore ALL pregnancy options – parenting, adoption, abortion – according to the expressed need of the client. Though PPO looks very different today than 50 years ago and has come a very long way from a small meeting in a church basement, it is guided by the same principles.

PPO staff and its large team of compassionate volunteers are dedicated to providing the best sexual and reproductive health information and support possible. If you have been part of our journey or have a story to tell about how we helped you, we would love to hear from you.

Planned Parenthood Ottawa is the combined efforts of many people working together to deliver important services to the Ottawa community. Planned Parenthood Ottawa is governed by a volunteer board. If you’re interested in leadership in the Ottawa community, learn about how you can join our board of directors.

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