Thanks to the Supreme Court, birth control has been legal in the U.S. for 50 years. Griswold v. Connecticut was a big deal because the Court ruled that married couples had the right to use contraception. Before that, birth control was either restricted or outlawed entirely. Now, most states offer women a way to access birth control for free, and some states are even going as far to require insurers to provide women with a full year of birth control coverage, which is amazing. Women have gone from having no choice to when they have babies to being able to prevent pregnancy for up to 10 years with an IUD. Some of the best quotes in Griswold v. Connecticut stand as the first positive remarks for reproductive health.
It all started in 1961, when a woman whom I admire greatly, Estelle Griswold, opened up a Planned Parenthood clinic even though she knew she would get arrested, according to the National Women's Law Center. At that time, Connecticut had a law that made it a crime to give birth control to married people. Griswold and the clinics doctor were arrested and convicted for providing birth control information and advice to couples, and Griswold appealed the case all the way to the Supreme Court. Exactly 50 years ago from Sunday, the Court ruled that state-level bans on birth control violated a married couple's right to privacy. Now, access to birth control has made it so that more women can go to college and more women can pursue advanced professional degrees. Here are the five best quotes from Griswold v. Connecticut about a right to privacy when it comes to healthcare.
Justice William O. Douglas on the intrusion inherent in contraception bans:
...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.
Justice Arthur Goldberg on fundamental rights referred to abstractly in the ninth amendment: (He wrote that the specification of certain rights in the first eight amendments shouldn't rule out the protection of even more potential rights from government intrusion, which are protected by the ninth amendment.)
To hold that a right so basic and fundamental and so deep-rooted in our society as the right of privacy in marriage may be infringed because that right is not guaranteed in so many words by the first eight amendments to the Constitution is to ignore the Ninth Amendment, and to give it no effect whatsoever.
Goldberg on how the court should determine a fundamental right: (This one has fabulous implications for women's rights.)
In determining which rights are fundamental, judges are not left at large to decide cases in light of their personal and private notions. Rather, they must look to the “traditions and [collective] conscience of our people” to determine whether a principle is “so rooted [there] . . . as to be ranked as fundamental."
Goldberg on one of the dissenting judge's opinions, which stated that the law might have been "silly," but it should stand because it was passed by a legislative body, which can test some economic or social belief through law:
The logic of the dissents would sanction federal or state legislation that seems to me even more plainly unconstitutional than the statute before us. Surely the Government, absent a showing of a compelling subordinating state interest, could not decree that all husbands and wives must be sterilized after two children have been born to them. Yet, by their reasoning, such an invasion of marital privacy would not be subject to constitutional challenge, because, while it might be “silly,” no provision of the Constitution specifically prevents the Government from curtailing the marital right to bear children and raise a family.
Justice Byron White on how this kind of ban would stop doctors from doing their jobs and disproportionately affect the poor:
The anti-use statute, together with the general aiding and abetting statute, prohibits doctors from affording advice to married persons on proper and effective methods of birth control. And the clear effect of these statutes, as enforced, is to deny disadvantaged citizens of Connecticut, those without either adequate knowledge or resources to obtain private counseling, access to medical assistance and up-to-date information in respect to proper methods of birth control.
Images: Getty Images (4)