With the election of Ronald Reagan as U.S. President in 1981, the world of family planning and reproductive freedom would have to face new obstacles and old fears. So many advances had been made in contraceptive technology, with refinement of the pill, the IUD, research into other hormonal methods, such as Depo-Provera and Norplant, and new barrier methods. Yet family planning suddenly came under the lash of political revisionism. Reproductive health research and contraceptive technology would meet new political stumbling blocks, and abortion rights would be severely challenged once again.
In response to President Reagan's agenda, APPP's first order of advocacy business was a letter of opposition to the proposed Human Life Amendment and Statute, passage of which would make abortion illegal. At the urging of executive committee member Dr. Louise Tyrer, APPP gave a grant to Physicians for Free Choice, a group of physicians organized by Planned Parenthood who had taken an advocacy role and were writing to officials on matter related to reproductive freedom.
"The year of 1981 will provide several major challenges to our Association. The new Reagan Administration has given some post election hints that their sympathies may be somewhat divergent from out Association's principle objectives…"
- Dr. Howard J. Tatum, AAPPP President, From a letter to the membership, 1981
The world of reproductive freedom and family planning would need all the help it could get. In a move that would ultimately increase its potency and political impact, in 1981 APPP became the Association of Planned Parenthood Professionals. At last, health professionals other than-physicians could join the Association as full members, a subject that had been debated for a long time. Full membership in the new APPP was open to all family planning service professionals: nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, pharmacologists, physician assistants, scientists, researchers, educators, and others. The relationship between APPP and nurse practitioners in family planning would prove to be a symbiotic one.
By 1981, it was recognized that nurse practitioners were providing the majority of family planning services. Although by this time they had formed their own organizations, including the National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Family Planning (NANPFP), nurse practitioners in family planning were interested collaborating with APPP. They also sought representation on the program planning committee for APPP's annual meetings, since many nurse practitioners attended the meeting. NANFP even scheduled the date of their annual meeting to coincide with the APPP meeting. Furthermore, it was suggested that continuing nursing medical education (CNME) might be provided through APPP.
For practical reasons, increasing both membership and annual meeting attendance was important for APPP at this time. The Association was heading toward a financial crisis, running on a deficit for much of the early 1980s even though membership dues, postgraduate course fees, and meeting registration fees had been raised. Membership dropped to less than 500 and the executive committee discussed skipping a year and instituting a biannual meeting. Financial problems had arisen as a result of a number of factors. These included: decreased attendance at meetings due to increased competition from other organizations; fiscal problems resulting from executive committees and presidents that were inexperienced in fiscal matters; and a large reduction in Planned Parenthood's annual subsidy to APPP, due to Planned Parenthood's own financial problems.
To cut costs, APPP discontinued its journal Advances in Planned Parenthood in 1981. An arrangement was made so that APPP members would instead receive a reduced-rate subscription to the Journal of Reproductive Medicine, in which some papers presented at APPP meetings were published. By 1985, it was determined that contracting an outside meeting and management organization to run the Association could reduce expenses. HAB Associates was chosen and in 1986, APPP administration was "moved" to Chicago under a one-year time-share arrangement. This move cut immediate overhead costs for the Association, but had unfortunate consequences for much of its early archives, as they were lost.
In another move that must have been particularly gratifying for Dr. Michael Burnhill, who had championed such a change since 1981, APPP finally became the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals in 1987. It was a pivotal year for the Association in many ways. In July ARHP effectively moved to Washington, DC, under management of the National Abortion Federation (NAF). For the next two years, Administrative Director Susan Shermer would run ARHP from her NAF office, managing meetings, finances and administration. In October ARHP entered a new era. Thanks to the efforts of Drs. Michael Burnhill and Richard Derman, the Association received a $3 million grant from Ortho Pharmaceutical Corporation for a print and media campaign to promote oral contraceptives, called TruthRumor.
TruthRumor was designed to spread the word to the public on the relative risks and advantages of oral contraception through a series of four advertisements addressing common misperceptions about the pill. These included information on the lessened hormone content of the pill; the positive effect of the pill on ovarian and uterine cancer; on the mistaken idea that taking a break from the pill is a good thing to do; and on the risks associated with smoking and oral contraception. The advertisements were published in 17 journals and on television nationwide, and generated a lot of press coverage.
The campaign's success launched ARHP into a new league. It attracted much attention from the media, and effectively allowed the Association to negotiate a separation from Planned Parenthood. ARHP was given custody of the Alan Guttmacher bequest, with the commitment to sponsor an annual lectureship in his name at Planned Parenthood annual meetings. With the willingness of Ortho to contribute additional funds to the organization, ARHP now had a unique opportunity to expand its outreach and at the same time develop programs aimed at attracting and recruiting members. Most importantly, ARHP was faced with the decision to accept a higher profile and take on new opportunities in the realm of public education. To do this, ARHP needed to grow; membership had dropped to around 300.
In October 1988, NAF suggested that ARHP hire its own staff and find office space. NAF Executive Director Barbara Radford offered to conduct a search for an executive director. At the end of the year, Scott Dills, former associate director of Planned Parenthood of Seattle, was recruited as ARHP's first executive director and space was found to rent in the offices of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist (ACOG). A number of possible avenues of growth for ARHP were debated. These included: becoming certified to provide CNME; forming a speakers bureau; publishing more written materials and developing audio-visual educational materials; cultivating the media; collaborating on programs with other organizations; finding new sources of funding; and recruiting new members. A new era for ARHP had started.
THE IRVIN M. CUSHNER LECTURESHIP
|APPP/ARHP BOARD PRESIDENTS |
1980 to 1981 Howard J. Tatum, MD, MPH
1981 to 1982 George Huggins, MD
1982 to 1983 Kenneth R. Niswander, MD
1983 to 1984 Ward Cates, Jr., MD, MPH
1984 to 1985 Johanna Perlmutter, MD
1985 to 1986 Richard Soderstrom, MD
1986 to 1987 Michael S. Burnhill
1988 to 1989 Judith Tyson, MD
1989 to 1990 Richard Derman, MD
Irvin Cushner, MD, MPH (1924-1986) was an influential leader in the fields of modern reproductive health care and public health. As director of the Center for Social Studies in Human Reproduction in Baltimore, he helped develop the field of social obstetrics. The social aspects of reproductive health had previously attracted little attention in the study of traditional obstetrics and gynecology. Dr. Cushner helped develop guidelines for the legalization of abortion in the state of Maryland and was active with many public welfare and health care institutions, including the American Public Health Association, the Association for the Study of Abortion, Planned Parenthood, and the Alan Guttmacher Institute. He taught at Johns Hopkins University and UCLA, and served as deputy assistant secretary for population affairs of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. An outstanding speaker, well-loved and highly respected individual, Dr. Cushner is remembered as a true champion of reproductive rights and social welfare in the United States.
In his honor, in 1993 ARHP created the annual Irvin Cushner Lectureship, which is awarded to a lay person, public figure, or health care professional. The lecture, presented during a luncheon at an ARHP annual clinical conference, addresses a pressing current issue in the field of health care, especially as it may pertain to reproductive health and related public welfare issues. The presenter is someone who has raised public awareness of the issue and inspired public policy debate.
The first Irvin M. Cushner Lecturer was Dr. Joycelyn Elders, then-director of the Arkansas State Department of Health and President Bill Clinton's Surgeon-General-designate.