Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington dedicated its new headquarters this week at 1108 16th St. NW, and Albert Russo, director of the city's Department of Human Resources, called it "a wonderful day for the entire city" as he pledged "continuing support" for the organization.
The organization changed its location after almost 25 years at 1109 M St. NW because the old headquarters building was "badly deteriorating," and its clinic, which was located across the street in the basement of an apartment building, was in need of more space, according to community relations director Betty Gillis.
At one point during the dedication ceremory, Sarah Brown, president of the board of directors of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, said, "For those who knew our previous building..." but her remarks were drowned out by the laughter of those gathered in the bright, newly remodeled facility.
The organization also hopes to reach more people in the new location, which is easier to get to by subway or bus.
Brown emphasized Planned Parenthood's goal of making "every child a wanted child," but said that "we have not attained the goal of reproductive freedom. The battle for reproductive rights is not yet won." The pregnancy rate in adolescents "was as high in 1976 as it was in 1971," she said.
Words of praise for the new headquarters were given by Emil Moore, executive director of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, who likened the expanded facility to a newborn child.
"We have to nurture her and feed her so she'll grow up to do the work she was meant to do," Moore said.
The Rev. Ernest Gibson, executive director of the Council of Churches of Greater Washington, congratulated the organization, and said, "We have appreciated your work." Without Planned Parenthood, he said, many women "would not be able to have expertise that you provide."
D.C. City Council Chairman Sterling Turker also praised the group, as did Ellen Bozman, vice chairman of the Arlington County Board. Bozman encouraged the organization to "stay and expand in Northern Virginia also."
Quincalee Brown, the executive director of the Montgomery County Commission for Women, and Katharine Graham, publisher of The Washington Post, both commended the organization for its use of volunteers. Prince George's County health officer Dr. Donald Wallace and former U.S. Sen. Joseph Tydings also spoke at the dedication ceremony.
The new administrative office and clinic cost $505,000, with and additional $285,000 for renovations and related costs.
A laboratory and a contraceptive dispensary are two of the facilities available in the new headquarters that were not available at the old location. The new laboratory will make it possible for pregnancy test results to be given the same day as the test, a spokeswoman said.
The organization estimates that an additional 1,4000 people will make visits to the new clinic year. Last year, about 7,000 people visited the old headquarters clinic, and many of them made more than one visit.
Most of the women who visit the clinic come to get birth control pills, six-month pelvic exams and pap smears, a spokeswoman said. The next largest group of women come to be fitted for diaphragms or to have them checked.
"In spite of all the scares," a spokeswoman said, 70 percent of Planned Parenthood's clients use birth control pills, and 16 percent use diaphragms.
In the past, many more women than men have visited Planned Parenthood, according to Kate Potteiger, in-service educator for all of the Planned Parenthood local branches. Men come "primarily as partners of patients," she said, and sometimes sit in on information sessions. There have been no services offered specifically for men, although some have come for vasectomy counseling.
The organization hopes to offer more services for men at the new location, such as a male clinic for urological problems, sexual concerns for men, and venereal disease detection and treatment. If the funding can be obtained, the group would also like to operate a partners clinic to involve both partners in contraception decisions.
The new clinic also provides family planning counseling, breast exams, screening for venereal disease, treatment of minor gynecological infections, contraceptives, heart, lung and thyroid tests, blood presure testing, and other services. Fees for all the services are based on a sliding scale that takes into account ability to pay, the spokeswoman said.
A Saturday morning counseling and discussion session is also offered for teen-agers at the clinic. Planned Parenthood holds peer counseling sessions and provides sex eduction and family planning information for teen-agers in District high schools. They also operate the Woodson Teen Health Clinic at Woodson High School, where students come for information, counseling and birth control devices.
Planned Parenthood refers clients to other agencies for adoption, prenatal care, abortion, infertility services and sterilization.
Along with a modernized clinic, the new building will alos house a family planning reference and research library, which is expected to be open to the public by the end of this month.
The organization also expects to handle more requests for information in its new location. Last year, about 1,500 people called in or visited the D.C. headquarters for information on family planning or related at least a 20 percent increase "because of the accessibility of the new building."
Planned Parenthood also operates a speakers bureau and will provide speakers on family planning or related subjects to interested groups. They conduct family planning workshops at schools, hospitals, prisons and professional associations.
A new boutique shop is also located in the headquarters building. Planned Parenthood T shirts, jewelry, stationery and children's wear, many bearing the "Love Carefully" slogan of the organization, are being sold there.