Our Courageous History

Pathfinder was originally incorporated as the Pathfinder Fund in 1957. Our pioneering family planning work, however, began decades earlier in the late 1920s when Pathfinder founder, Dr. Clarence Gamble, supported efforts to introduce contraception to women and couples in the United States and 60 other countries. He also launched the first community-based service model, which is still the foundation of Pathfinder’s success today.

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In the 1930s, Dr. Gamble and a team of female volunteers began to introduce family planning programs in the US, launching birth control clinics and supporting contraceptive research in 40 US cities in 14 states. Most of these clinics would later become Planned Parenthood clinics.

In the 1950s, visits by Dr. Gamble and his field workers to more than 50 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America result in the establishment of private Family Planning Associations in more than 30 countries on six continents. Most of these would subsequently become members of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. Later that decade, in 1957, Dr. Gamble and his wife, Sarah, formally established The Pathfinder Fund, an incorporated, tax-exempt organization.

Since our founding, we have worked in over 70 countries on six continents, always going where the need is greatest. Nearly 90% of our over 800+ employees worldwide come from and serve the very communities where we work.

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Our focus on community ownership of reproductive health programs has never wavered. The courage and dedication shown by all Pathfinders and the local partners with whom we work, has shifted strongly held attitudes, beliefs, and practices, ensuring that every individual, regardless of where they live, has the ability and the opportunity to make their own decisions about their bodies and their futures.

And we have continued to lead the global fight to recognize the right of every individual to make their own sexual and reproductive choices—even taking our own government to court. In the 1980s, we filed suit against the United States Government, challenging the “Mexico City Policy” which denied US funds to any foreign non-governmental organization that “performs or promotes abortion as a method of family planning.” In 1990, our suit results in a court decision allowing USAID to support postabortion care services and recognizing the right of US-based NGOs to use private funds for abortion services without any government interference.

And in 2005, in response to US legislation that placed sweeping restrictions on US organizations implementing US-funded HIV programs overseas—including the requirement for these organizations to pledge their opposition to prostitution to remain eligible for federal HIV & AIDS funding—we took the government to court again—and the US District Court ruled in our favor. Unfortunately, for the past decade, their decision has been held under appeal.

Our pioneering work continues to change lives throughout the developing world, helping drastically increase contraceptive use, reduce maternal and child mortality, reduce the spread of HIV infections, and lay the groundwork for transformational social change for generations to come.

Change lives with us.

FEATURED COUNTRY

Burkina Faso

Ouali became a wife at 15. Today, she’s choosing her own path forward. See how we’re making sure Burkinabe women & girls can exercise their sexual and reproductive rights.

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FEATURED PROJECT

NGO Health Service Delivery Project

Bangladesh has the world's 8th largest population; half live in poverty. See how our partnership with the “Smiling Sun” network brings essential health services to those who need it most.

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