By Kansasa City Star, Nov. 7
In the early days of his four-decade-long career in family planning, Peter Brownlie envisioned a more tranquil horizon.
“Many of us thought, through the ‘70s, that we’d made solid gains,” he said.
Birth control, banned in some states as late as the 1960s, was gaining widespread acceptance. With its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the U.S. Supreme Court had made it possible for women and physicians to terminate pregnancies without fear of prosecution. Brownlie foresaw more acceptance for family planning as the years went on.
In a sense that’s happened. Nearly all women use birth control at some point in their lives. Most Americans believe abortion should be legal in certain circumstances.
But the right to reproductive choice has been under continuous attack, and nowhere more so than where Brownlie has stood for 15 years as president of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.
Interest groups and legislatures in both states have been intensely hostile toward abortion. A former attorney general in Kansas, Phill Kline, was on a mission to bring criminal charges against providers.
“He made life very difficult for us,” Brownlie said.
Planned Parenthood continues as a vital institution in Kansas and Missouri, however, and Brownlie’s leadership is a big reason. Throughout a decade of legal battles he maintained a steadfast composure, always keeping the interest of patients at the forefront of the debate.
Brownlie, 67, announced his plans to retire on Thursday. For 40 years, he has defended women’s access to health care and the right of families to control their fertility.
Unlike some of his adversaries, Kline included, he’s leaving on his own terms and with his reputation unblemished. That is a job well done.