Happy Birthday To Your Right To Birth Control

It's been been 45 years today since Griswold v. Connecticut, in which the U.S. Supreme Court saw in the Constitution a protected right to privacy — in that case, the right of married couples to use birth control.

The case would have major implications for later decisions affecting reproductive and sexual health, including Roe v. Wade and, in 2003, Lawrence v. Texas, striking down anti-sodomy laws.

Griswold challenged Connecticut's law, on the books since 1879, banning contraception and prohibiting the dissemination of information about contraception. Estelle Griswold of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, and Dr. C. Lee Buxton, a faculty member at Yale Medical School, were convicted under the law for operating a family planning clinic. From the decision on June 7, 1965:


The present case, then, concerns a relationship lying within the zone of privacy created by several fundamental constitutional guarantees. And it concerns a law which, in forbidding the use of contraceptives rather than regulating their manufacture or sale, seeks to achieve its goals by means having a maximum destructive impact upon that relationship. Such a law cannot stand in light of the familiar principle, so often applied by this Court, that a "governmental purpose to control or prevent activities constitutionally subject to state regulation may not be achieved by means which sweep unnecessarily broadly and thereby invade the area of protected freedoms." NAACP v. Alabama, 377 U.S. 288, 307 . Would we allow the police to search the sacred precincts of marital bedrooms for telltale signs of the use of contraceptives? The very idea is repulsive to the notions of privacy surrounding the marriage relationship.

We deal with a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights - older than our political parties, older than our school system. Marriage is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects. Yet it is an association for as noble a purpose as any involved in our prior decisions.

It was all downhill for America since then, give that the right has totally given up on searching bedrooms for telltale signs of whatever it is they disapprove of. Joke! As Jodi Jacobson points out at RH Reality Check, the rights recognized by Griswold have continually been under assault, despite massive public opinion in favor of contraceptive access. For example, though the right lost its fight to defund Planned Parenthood, the final spending deal "cut funding for Title X by $18.1 million at a time when more and more low-income women are seeking care and services from this program than ever before." For now, we have an issue of access to rights already recognized by the nation's highest court, but the stated right-wing agenda isn't terribly far from trying to undermine those rights altogether.

Almost Fifty Years After Griswold, We're Still Fighting for Access To Contraception [RH Reality Check]