By Kathy Greenier, ACLU of Virginia Reproductive Freedom Project Director
Today marks the 49th anniversary of Griswold v. Connecticut. In Griswold, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the fundamental right to privacy includes a right for married couples to use birth control. Seems obvious right? As we’ve long argued, politicians have no business interfering in our personal (and private) health care decisions. But, the Supreme Court’s decision to recognize this right was a landmark victory.
In 1965, the year the Supreme Court decided Griswold, many states had laws prohibiting the use and distribution of birth control. When Griswold’s case made its way up to the Supreme Court, the Court held that the right to privacy is a fundamental right, but focused on the notion of privacy in a marital relationship. While the Supreme Court did not focus on everyone’s right to avoid pregnancy or make reproductive choices, the seeds were planted for later cases in which the Supreme Court protected access to birth control broadly and access to abortion as part of the right to privacy, thus fully enshrining our right to reproductive autonomy.
The 49th anniversary of Griswold should remind us that not long ago, extreme state laws prevented access to critical health care services. We cannot go down that road again and let politicians pass laws that deny our reproductive freedom. We cannot return to pre-Griswold America. We must protect this basic right that everyone should enjoy – the right to decide whether and when to have children. It should be a no-brainer.