Celebrating 51 Years of Legal Birth Control Access
This year marks the 51st anniversary of Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court decision that held that a married couple’s right to privacy includes the right to use birth control. We celebrated in a big way last year for the 50th anniversary, so how do we follow that up? This crucial decision should be celebrated in a big way every year because legal access to birth control has had such a huge impact on women’s lives.
By guaranteeing legal access to birth control, the Griswold decision opened the door for dramatic changes for women and for our society. Since the Griswold decision, birth control has had such a positive impact on women’s lives that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named “family planning” one of the ten great public health achievements of the twentieth century, alongside vaccinations and control of infectious diseases. Birth control allows women to plan their pregnancies, and planned pregnancies improve both women’s health and their children’s health.
In addition to birth control’s health benefits, increased control over reproductive decisions that resulted from the Griswold case has provided women with educational and professional opportunities that have advanced gender equality. Research has shown that the availability of birth control pills is clearly associated with “increases in U.S. women’s education, labor force participation, and average earnings, coupled with a narrowing in the wage gap between women and men.” Another study found that the availability of birth control pills contributed to an increase in the number of women in professional occupations, including doctors and lawyers.
Griswold was one of the first steps that enabled women to access birth control legally and gave women greater opportunity to plan their families and lives. The steps to increase access to birth control continue across the country to this day – with several recent wins. But Griswold was a very important early step, and for that, we should celebrate!