Planned Parenthood has provided reproductive health care in Montana for 50 years. 

That's nearly half as long as the organization has existed nationwide. Planned Parenthood was founded nationally 102 years ago in New York City. 

This week, Planned Parenthood of Montana is hosting an event in Helena, the first of three celebrations recognizing a half-century of providing affordable health care. 

"Planned Parenthood of Montana is proud to be celebrating our 50th anniversary of providing high-quality, nonjudgmental sexual and reproductive health care, sexual education, and advocacy for reproductive rights in Helena and for all Montanans," said Martha Stahl, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Montana. "We are honored to have such a longstanding, trusted relationship with our patients here. Patients who need and deserve access to health care and education." 

According to Dawn Dockstader, general manager of the Helena Planned Parenthood, the local provider services between 50 to 60 patients each week. The Helena location will recognize it's 33rd year this August. 

"I'm very excited to be celebrating 50 years and hoping to be here another 50," Dockstader said. "We serve a valuable place in the health care community here in Helena." 

Sen. Diane Sands (D-Missoula)

Sen. Diane Sands (D-Missoula)

Sen. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, will be the 50th anniversary honoree of Planned Parenthood. She is being celebrated for her "fierce commitment to reproductive freedom" and her "outstanding support of women's reproductive health care," according to her nomination.

Sands created the first Women's Resource Center at the University of Montana in 1968 and has advocated for social justice, abortion rights, gay rights and Native American education. She has served on the Missoula Planned Parenthood's board of directors and is a founder of Montana National Abortion Rights Action League and the Montana Reproductive Rights Coalition, according to her bio. 

Other events will be in Missoula and Billings; the other cities that have a Planned Parenthood facility. 

"We will take the energy of this anniversary with us as we move forward into the next 50 years and beyond," Stahl said. 

Helena's celebration will be at Staggering Ox on Wednesday and will feature live music, dancing, a no-host bar, an auction featuring donations from local businesses and a buffet-style dinner. 

The first thing that comes to many people's minds when they hear Planned Parenthood is "abortion." However, abortion is a small part of what Planned Parenthood offers.

Due to the controversial nature of Planned Parenthood offering abortion services, the group has long been a target of funding cuts. The Trump administration recently issued a final rule that could cut off federal funding to the organization. However, the Hyde Amendment of 1976 bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortions, except to save the life of the mother, or if the pregnancy arises from incest or rape.

Services offered at Planned Parenthood of Montana include:

  • Female physical exams;
  • Male reproductive health exams;
  • Testing and treatment for precancerous cervical conditions;
  • Transgender services (education and hormone therapy);
  • Birth control information and supplies (including pills, condoms, intrauterine devices, Depo-Provera shots, diaphragms, vaginal rings, cervical caps and birth control patches);
  • Emergency contraception;
  • Pregnancy testing, options, education and information;
  • Testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections;
  • HIV testing and referral;
  • Midlife and menopausal care;
  • General family practice care.

The Helena location also offers cholesterol screenings, diabetes screenings, employment and sports physicals, high blood pressure screening, physical exams, pregnancy planning services, thyroid screenings and smoking cessation.

Many of these services are available to walk-ins, though some require an appointment or preparation.

Some offered services may result in a referral. This is done on a case-by-case basis, Dockstader said. 

The Helena location, at 1500 Cannon St., is open Monday and Friday 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Appointments, billing, insurance, services and payment information are available online at the Planned Parenthood website. 

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Education and Business Reporter

Education and Business reporter for Helena Independent Record.

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