Not Quite 50, Griswold Protections Under Assault

Not even fifty years ago the Supreme Court recognized the right of married couples to make family-planning decisions free from unnecessary interference by the state in the landmark decision Griswold v. Connecticut. There the Court ruled that the Constitution provides a broad right to privacy that shields the most intimate of decision from the prying eyes of the state and ultimately helped push the movement for reproductive justice forward to Roe v. Wade.

The law at issue in Griswold prohibited the use of “any drug, medicinal article or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception.” Estelle Griswold, Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut and Dr. C. Lee Buxton a physician and professor at the Yale School of Medicine opened a birth control clinic in New Haven to test the law. Shortly after it was opened the two were arrested, tried, found guilty of illegally providing contraception and fined $100 each. Their convictions were upheld at the appellate level until the Supreme Court held the Connecticut law unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment.

Sometimes when legal historians discuss Griswold they note the law was old–passed in 1879–and rarely enforced to imply or reduce the seriousness of the law challenged and the issue of whether or not married couples (and later single persons) had a right to privacy when dealing with matters of health and bodily autonomy. I mean, after all, who would really question such a position?

How about the entirety of the conservative movement today, that’s who.

It was a position that used to make some sense, back before contraception was again under attack and presidential candidates declaring Griswold wrongly decided. In today’s political climate, however, that’s a different story.

And because of that shift we have to pay close attention to the legislation anti-choice activists are advancing in the name of the 14th Amendment like fetal personhood because those bills pose the greatest substantive jurisprudential threat to Griswold while legislation designed to make contraception more expensive and harder to access represent the greatest legislative threat.

So when others suggest the war on women is some manufactured political meme, or if they tell you you’re overreacting to the Blunt Amendment and state efforts to restrict family planning and contraception, remind them that not even fifty years ago those restrictions were already in place.

Related Stories:

The Long History Of The War Against Contraception

From Griswold A Conservative View Of Privacy

Rep. Steve King: States Can Ban Contraception

Photo from Wikimedia Commons


Maria D'Oporto
Past Member 4 years ago

Seems world is walkimg backwards!!

Amanda M.
Amanda M.4 years ago

And the Rethuglican Religious Reich continues to deny that they have declared a war on women! What a bunch of maroons!

We women need to stand up for our rights before we lose them all and this country is catapulted into a RRR theocracy akin to the scene in "The Handmaid's Tale!" Don't scoff-it could actually happen if these idiots are given enough free rein!

Andrew Carvin
Andrew Carvin4 years ago

I made a video about why abortion should be easily available, and free for any woman that wants one. It’s at my YouTube channel Zarrakan, and here’s the link:

Watch it, share it, and join the fight against the evil anti-abortionists.

Sailor H.
Past Member 4 years ago

"feminist" is not a dirty word. We ALL need to keep up on this.

Irina Meldere
Irina Meldere4 years ago


Irina Meldere
Irina Meldere4 years ago


Deirdre G.
Deirdre G.4 years ago

why dont we as women start a campaign on banning vasectomies for men.... see how long we can keep it up without the powers that be stopping us. they are all for harrassing women but they themselves would be first down the clinic to get the snip.

Mari Garcia
Mari Garcia4 years ago

Once again, when will the focus on the jobs?!

Karen Perkins
Karen Perkins4 years ago

I will never understand the women who actually support repealing Griswold or Fair Pay. I think I do understand a little about the women who don't get actively involved in defending their rights. I've been through menopause so abortion and contraception are not a personal problem but I still do everything I can to ensure that women keep these rights. I have a friend, however, who is in her early 30s, single, sexually active and on birth control and when I get on my soapbox, she is completely disinterested. Why? She is busy with her work life and her social life which are of immediate concern to her. Women's issues are not immediate to her. She has never faced job discrimination, at least, not knowingly. Her insurance does pay for her birth control and if she were to get pregnant, she knows she could get an abortion if she wanted to. And IT"S BEEN THIS WAY ALL HER LIFE. In her heart of hearts, she doesn't believe it could change that drastically. Shoot, I have a hard time believing it. And I think a lot of women, although they would scream loudly once they lost those rights, don't really feel threatened that they might actually lose them. The world, on the whole, has been pretty fair and pretty good and they believe that good people will ultimately prevail. And I don't know what it would take to wake them up. We just keep talking about it, I guess. I know I'm not going stop bringing it up to my friend.

A N M.
anne M.4 years ago

This is just too bizarre. And American women just stand there and keep voting for those woman-haters. Why?