Contraception Can Change the World – And It Has

On this anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Griswold v. Connecticut, protecting married couples’ rights to use contraception, I give thanks to those Justices who decided the case, to Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood), to scientists and doctors and pharmacists and everyone else who has ever played a role in making birth control available to me. Without them, I would undoubtedly be a mother.

Most people who use contraception eventually choose to become or already are parents. For me it’s different: I don’t want children, and I can’t imagine being forced to bear and raise children I didn’t want. I know, I know, once they were here I would love them — but loving them is different from wanting them, and wouldn’t prevent them from turning my life upside down in unwelcome ways. Millions of parents regret having children; thanks to contraception I am not one of them. It is the magic pill that has allowed me to live the life I imagined rather than the one expected of or destined for me.

More broadly, Griswold is an important landmark in a line of cases establishing that the Constitution creates a right to privacy. It is hard to imagine the Supreme Court coming to a different conclusion in that case, really: the thought that the government would have the right to snoop in married couples’ bedrooms (a later case extended this privacy right to non-married couples) is anathema to the American ethos of liberty and individual rights.

For hundreds of millions of women around the world, however, the barrier to birth control is not privacy or government interference, but gender inequality and the simple unavailability of contraceptives. For these women, avoiding pregnancy reduces maternal mortality in childbirth. It allows girls and women to put off childbearing until they have completed their educations and earned income outside the home. It can help them break the cycle of poverty by controlling the size of their families so they can increase their incomes and reduce their expenses.

For me, avoiding pregnancy is less necessity than preference, but for millions of other women it can make the difference between eating dinner and going hungry. The Griswold decision allowed me to realize my preferences, but for so many others contraceptives are even less available than they were in the U.S. before the Supreme Court’s decision. This is a day to celebrate our freedom, but also to resolve to make the same advantages available to others across the globe.

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Photo credit: Urban Sea Star


Norma V.
Norma Villarreal5 years ago

If contraceptives prevent pregnancy, there is less opportunity for abortion which leads to more debate over the rights over one's body.

Lynne Brittany
Lynne B5 years ago

My husband and I are very glad that there is such reliable contraception in the world.

We would have been the couple with at least 12 children, we were blessed or cursed depending on which way you look at it, by being very fertile, We only had to suggest having a baby and there we were pregnant.

So I do thank scientists for my freedom to choose.

Prentise W.
pre,tpse w5 years ago

If only the Catholic overpopulation and poverty supporters would listen to this.

Evelyn M.
Evelyn M5 years ago

Green star, Gene J, can't send directly. Very well said.

Robert C.
Robert Cruder5 years ago

A recent news item claimed that there are more pet dogs in Japan than there are children.

Japan is having fewer children and giving them a better education than the U.S. could afford.

As the number of inexpensive unskilled workers declines, Japan is replacing them with robots. The U.S. "fixes" the same problem by ignoring the cost of third-world immigration and tries to ban contraception.

As Japan concentrates the same amount of wealth among fewer people their standard of living is rising. Each year the existing infrastructure serves the shrinking population better.

The U.S. delivers essentially all of the new wealth to the 0.1% but spreads existing wealth over an ever growing population. Infrastructure that needs to be expanded cannot even be maintained and fails to service present or future needs.

In religiosity, Europe followed Japan with perhaps a 10 year lag and I expect the same for their handling of demographics. They have a much more difficult time stemming immigration from more religious countries that think a horde of starving babies is somehow holy.

In religiosity, the U.S. follows Japan with more like a 50 year lag and I expect the same for our handling of demographics. Since we really do not have the physical or financial resources to support another doubling, I do expect symptoms of societal collapse in some areas.

Juliet Defarge
judith sanders5 years ago

It's no fluke that Germany, the European country that is riding out the global recession, is also a country with a low birth rate. Two generations ago, the Germans understood that business productivity and modernization of farming methods would mean fewer jobs. We, however, believed that our financial bubbles will last forever, ignored the ramifications of technological progress, and kept breeding kids for jobs that would inevitably disappear.

Amanda M.
Amanda M5 years ago

Thumbs up to this author! Birth control has not only freed women from being burdened by having too many kids that she can't afford to feed, but also has improved the health of women worldwide! Not only have women been able to limit or space the number of children they have to what they can afford or manage, but birth control has also improved women's HEALTH by controlling symptoms of such chronic conditions as endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, fibroid tumors, severe menstrual bleeding, crippling cramps, uncontrollable PMS, or an irregular cycle! How many women have been able to complete their education, go into the career field they want, and finally have children WHEN THEY ARE READY because birth control is accessible? And how many women who don't want children at all are free from childbearing altogether because of contraception access?

John M, STFU about abstinence already! Abstaining does NOTHING to help relationships, and it DEFINITELY doesn't help those women who use birth control for the MEDICAL ISSUES I mentioned above! Are we just supposed to shut up and suffer instead of using birth control? That would make it IMPOSSIBLE to complete our educations and hold down jobs! Unless of course you think that women should stay barefoot, pregnant, and enslaved to the man! Thanks, but no thanks-I'm GLAD to have been able to limit my family to just two children and get my tubes tied after the second so I don't have to worry about unwanted pregnancies anymore

Anne G.
Anne G5 years ago

It just goes to show that we women cannot take anything for granted, it was a battle to get contraception and now it seems as if it will be another battle to keep it. Love your comment Mickey M.

Ron B.
Ron B5 years ago

And it has for the better in incalculable ways. There are two problems. One is that we need far more of it. The other is that there are ignorant, self-righteous people out there who oppose any and all forms of it. They must be fought and overcome at all costs.

Ian Fletcher
Ian Fletcher5 years ago

Men have no right even to opine in these matters.