Birth Control Fight Is Still Being Fought
Thursday marks the 47th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision to make birth control legal in the United States, but the case is still being argued.
The threshold Griswold v. Connecticut ruling of June 7, 1965, reversed an 1879 Connecticut statute prohibiting the use of “any drug, medicinal article or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception,” and stipulating that “any person who assists, abets, counsels, causes, hires or commands another to commit any offense may be prosecuted and punished as if he were the principal offender.”
The law was challenged by Estelle Griswold, executive director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, and the League’s medical director, Dr. C. Lee Buxton, chair of the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Yale’s School of Medicine, who provided these services at the Planned Parenthood Center of New Haven for 10 days in 1961 before the two were arrested and fined. The Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision in their favor famously provided the right to “doctor-patient privacy” and, ever since, has either been credited with, or blamed for, the court’s subsequent Roe v. Wade position on access to abortion.
In March of 1965, as the girlfriend of Dr. Buxton’s son, I attended the Griswold v. Connecticut oral arguments. It stuns me still that neither my future father-in-law nor my husband-to-be lived to witness the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling of 1973, or could have imagined, then, the progress that would be achieved by my generation of girls who, as feminists, intensified the momentum generated by those initial acts of resistance.