Fighting for Birth Control 53 Years after Griswold v. Connecticut

Today marks the 53rd 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. In 1965, Estelle Griswold, the executive director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, led the legal battle for the elimination of Connecticut’s anti-birth control statute that sparked a revolution across America. After Griswold, the fight continued for ALL individuals’ right to access birth control, not just married couples. In 1972, Eisenstadt v. Baird extended the principles established in Griswold, with the Supreme Court holding that all individuals should be free from government intrusion that affects a person’s decision to bear a child, including the right to birth control. By guaranteeing legal access to birth control, the Griswold decision opened the door for dramatic changes for women and for our society.

Griswold & Eisenstadt recognized an individual’s right to privacy in family planning matters. But if you can’t actually get your birth control, this right to privacy might be less meaningful than it should be. And right now, the ability to get your birth control is under attack on all fronts.
For individuals who struggle to afford birth control, family planning clinics, including Planned Parenthood, have been a critical source of care made possible by the nation’s Title X program. The Title X family planning program was created just five years after Griswold and is the only federal grant program dedicated solely to providing people with family planning and related health services. Sadly, the Trump-Pence Administration is actively working to undermine the Title X program by changing the way it awards Title X grants – which they’ve already been sued over – and proposing a rule that would restrict what Title X recipients can tell their patients about abortion and effectively prohibit people from visiting Planned Parenthood for their Title X care.   This rule is not yet in effect, but if it is finalized as proposed it would threaten access to birth control and other preventive care for the four million people who use Title X clinics every year.
Furthermore, the Trump-Pence Administration is trying to make it more difficult for people to use their private insurance to pay for their birth control. In Oct. 2017, the Administration issued an illegal rule allowing employers and universities with “moral” and “religious” objections to birth control coverage to exclude it from their health plans entirely. These rules are not in effect because two courts stopped them, but the Administration continues to defend its actions in court in an attempt to make these rules real.

Fifty-three years later, birth control remains a controversial issue despite the fact that reproductive health care is basic health care. Undermining access to birth control is just one aspect of the Trump-Pence Administration’s broader attack against women and their ability to control when and if they decide to become a parent.  Considering that 99.9% women use birth control at some point in their life, I believe this is something we should all fight for! An individual’s bodily autonomy should be free from government intrusion and judgement in the health care setting. It’s hard to believe that in 2018, there are folks who think your doctor or employer’s personal beliefs – or the government –  should be able to stop you from accessing the care you deserve. However, we can follow in the footsteps of Estelle Griswold by continuing to fight for equal access to birth control for all individuals!
If you have had difficulty access your birth control coverage, contact the National Women’s Law Center’s CoverHer hotline. You can reach us by telephone at 1-866-745-5487 or email at [email protected]