Our achievements

2015 – We're 85!

What better way to mark our 85th year than launching FPA Pleasure, a website celebrating sexual pleasure and wellbeing.

2014 – 40 years of free contraception

Thanks to our pioneering work free contraception has been available through the NHS for 40 years! More information coming soon.

2010 – FPA celebrated 80 years

In the last decade we have continued to support and champion the rights of everyone to good sexual health.

We ran the first national awareness campaign focusing on the rights of people with learning disabilities to fulfilling sexual relationships, introduced our first comic for children aged 6–7 about growing up, campaigned for sex and relationships education to become statutory as part of the national curriculum and defended the right for women to have an abortion up to 24 weeks.

Poster from FPA Sexual Health Week 2008

We also extended Speakeasy, our popular parenting programme, to all four countries in the UK and  developed a range of community projects.

In 2005, we celebrated our 75th anniversary

The right to enjoy sexual relationships free from the fear of pregnancy is now taken for granted. Yet when we began our work in 1930, there were just 20 family planning clinics, knowledge of contraception was limited to those who had money, and good information and open discussion about sexual health was practically non-existent.

To counter this, the National Birth Control Council was formed in 1930 (the name changed to The Family Planning Association in 1939) “so that married people may space out/limit their families and thus mitigate the evils of ill health and poverty”.

FPA contraception campaign postcard

Fighting for the sexual and reproductive rights of every person

Around this time most middle- and upper-class women could afford to pay for contraception. However, as one early worker remembered, the poor had no choice.

“They were forced to have babies they didn’t want and couldn’t afford, or they were forced to have backstreet abortions which literally risked their lives.”

Indeed, in the 1930s around 450 women a year died while having abortions in England and Wales alone. The vast majority of these were illegal, ‘backstreet’ abortions.

A change is coming

FPA contraception campaign postcard

For FPA, the early days were a struggle, fought under great pressure from religious groups and the press. And it wasn’t just insults being hurled. Eggs, apples and bricks were frequently thrown at our clinics, and volunteers were verbally and physically threatened.

But change was soon in the air. The Second World War saw many old conventions left behind, and sex was more freely available - as were sexually transmitted infections.

Then in the 1950s, FPA clinics began to offer pre-marital advice to women, although proof, such as a letter from a vicar or family doctor, was often required before contraceptive supplies were provided.

During the 1960s the social and sexual attitudes changed dramatically. The Pill was first prescribed in FPA clinics in 1961 and within ten years had become the method of choice for over a million women. This highly reliable method brought a new sense of sexual freedom to men and women.

Sex + Pill = Freedom

By 1970 all FPA clinics were supplying advice and treatment to everyone.

In 1974, our aim of universal free contraception was achieved when our network of over 1,000 clinics was handed over to the NHS. Family planning was now part of the health service – and has remained there ever since.

FPA contraception campaign poster, pregnant man

Timeline – key dates in FPA history

1930
FPA parent organisation, the National Birth Control Council, is formed with 20 clinics ‘so that married people may space or limit their families and thus mitigate the evils of ill-health and poverty’.

1939
The Council changes its name to The Family Planning Association.

1948
The NHS is formed, but family planning services are not included.

1960
FPA advertises for the first time on London Underground trains, but the British Transport Commission withdraws the ads following complaints.

1961
FPA Medical Advisory Committee approves the use of the Pill in its clinics; the average age of first sex is 19.

1967
The Abortion Act legalises abortion in England, Wales and Scotland; and the Sexual Offences Act legalises homosexuality for men aged 21+.

1970
All FPA clinics now give contraceptive advice to single people.

1974
On 1 April, Barbara Castle, Minister for Health, announces that free family planning for all will be included in the NHS Reorganisation Bill and over 1,000 FPA clinics are handed over to the NHS.

Department of Health issues guidance for doctors clarifying the legality of providing contraception to under-16s without parental consent.

1975
GPs join the NHS family planning service.

1985
Law Lords confirm legality of contraceptive treatment to under-16s.

1990
Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act amends the Abortion Act of 1967 reducing the time limit from 28 to 24 weeks, but removing it in cases where the mother’s life is at severe risk and for serious fetal abnormalities.

1997
FPA launches two new annual campaigns: Contraceptive Awareness Week and Sexual Health Week.

1998
The Family Planning Association becomes FPA to mark its broader sexual health remit.

2000
The average age of first sex is 16; the age of consent for gay sex is reduced to 16.

2005
FPA celebrates 75 years of achievement in sexual health.

2008
FPA successfully defends the abortion time limit of 24 weeks.

It's My Right, the first campaign for the sexual rights of people with learning disabilities is launched.

2009
FPA launches two major new sexual health projects – Sleepin' Safe, Sexin' Safe for homeless young people and the Raising aspirations programme for young people in Northern Ireland.

Publication of FPA parenting book Speakeasy: Talking with Your Children About Growing Up.

2010
FPA celebrates 80 years and rebrands with a new logo to reach more people with sexual health and sex and relationships information.

The Achievers Club is founded by FPA to recognise people who have made significant contributions to improving the sexual health of the UK.

My Contraception Tool, an online tool to help people choose contraception, is launched by FPA and Brook.

All About Us, an FPA CD-ROM for people with learning disabilities, wins the Disability category at the Charity Awards 2010.

FPA holds the first all-Ireland conference on abortion for medical practitioners.

Interested in the history of contraceptive services? See our factsheet A History of Family Planning Services.