Singles’ Right to Birth Control Turns 40! Happy Birthday, Eisenstadt v. Baird


Though slutgate seems to have come to somewhat of a conclusion — Rush Limbaugh probably won’t call a young woman a “slut” again until he calls a young woman a “slut” again — it’s helpful to remember what laid the groundwork for this most recent culture war battle: Eisenstadt v. Baird a little-discussed 1972 court ruling that OKd birth control for singles. (Hell yeah!)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Eisenstadt V. Baird on this very day 40 years ago. The case stems from the arrest of Bill Baird, who got a felony charge in Massachusetts for giving contraceptive foam to an un-married woman.

Baird, who had worked as a medical supply distributor, was said to have been particularly moved by the passing of a young woman at a hospital, who died from a piece of coathanger stuck in her cervix. Leading up to the case, he was jailed many times for his activism.

But what, exactly, did the Baird decision do?

The ruling extended the right to privacy established by Griswold v. Connecticut — which, in turn, allowed married folk to obtain contraceptives — so that un-married Americans enjoyed this right, too.

The Court determined that not doing so would violate the Constitutional clause providing equal protection of the law to all Americans.

Now, you might wonder whether it’s worth paying much attention to Eisenstadt v. Baird, when it seems Roe V. Wade under attack from the religious right.

As The Nation points out, the anti-contraception camp has recently come down on the right to contraception as much as abortion. From Limbaugh’s public shaming of birth control users, to Rick Santorum’s comments about moral depravity to the countless other examples, it’s clear that Eisenstadt v. Baird is under attack.

In New York, legislators have become so wary of national reproductive rights protections, in fact, that they have sponsored the Reproductive Health Act in both the state Senate and Assembly. This law, as Runnin’ Scared previously reported, would completely de-criminalize abortion and codify New Yorkers’ right to contraception.

But enough with the serious stuff. It is, after all, Eisenstadt v. Baird‘s Big 4-0 which is cause for celebration — with the right of singled and married Americans to have safe birthday sex if they so choose.

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