04 December 2013

Reminder of the days before Griswold

Posting this to remind people what life was like for American women before Griswold v. Connecticut:

Before the 1965 Griswold ruling, states were allowed to outlaw contraception, even to married people. Let that sink in. Before 1965, it was illegal in many states for married women to get birth control. And it wasn't until 1972 (Eisenstadt v. Baird) that the Supreme Court found fit to reject bans on contraception for unmarried people.

This isn't just within living memory; these results are actually younger than a lot of people in my generation -- I was born in the early 1970s.

So when I ran across this ad a few days ago, in a magazine called Personal Romances, aimed at teen girls and young women and published by the Ideal Publishing Corp. out of New York, I kind of felt blindsided. I knew, intellectually, that my parents hadn't had access to the pill and diaphragms and condoms and so on, as easily as I had by the time I was sexually mature. And of course I know the basic facts behind Griswold, Eisenstadt, and their progeny. But there's knowing the cases and the penumbral convolutions of law they led to; and there's living in a world where you can't plan the next few months of your life -- never mind the next 20 years -- because you don't know if you're going to get pregnant, and you won't be able to terminate the pregnancy because it's not yet 1973.

Maybe you've had a baby or two, and your family feels complete. Or the pregnancy experience was terrible. It damaged your health; or your marriage is in bad shape and you don't want to bring another baby into the mix; or (literally) heaven forbid you'd simply like to have sex without marriage or babies or both. I can't imagine being in these positions, because by the time I was at university I could get free condoms at the student center whenever I wanted them. Contraception wasn't controversial.

When did contraception become controversial again?

Note that one of the biggest selling points of the gadget up there is that it's "sanctioned by churches of all denominations." These are the same churches who are behind the Hobby Lobby case and the hilarious assertion that the only thing preventing the Catholic church from supporting health care for sick Americans is that Obamacare pays for pills. But religious oppression is the same, whether it comes in a Supreme Court opinion or a plain paper wrapper. And I'm very sorry to say I'm not optimistic about the result we'll see in June in Hobby Lobby.

No comments: