*This post is part of ACSblog’s symposium honoring the 50th anniversary of Griswold v. Connecticut.
Fifty years ago yesterday, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling that forever changed the legal landscape of our right to plan our families and make private decisions that are fundamental to our lives. The 1965 case, Griswold v. Connecticut, found that married couples have a constitutional right to obtain and use birth control when planning their families, free from antiquated laws that criminalized their doctors and prevented them from making personal decisions about when and whether to have children.
Griswold’s recognition of a constitutional right to privacy was a first step towards the Court’s subsequent decisions in Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Lawrence v. Texas, which found the right to liberty under the Fourteenth Amendment protects a broad set of liberty rights ― including the rights to bodily integrity, family decision making, and personal dignity and autonomy ― as well as privacy.
But the story does not end there. Far too many American women still face an uphill battle when trying to plan their families ― including efforts by politicians to choke off women’s access to emergency contraception and defund family planning clinics which provide low or no cost birth control.
Political hurdles such as these are especially high for women living in poor, rural, and immigrant communities ― where access to any health care services can be sparse and the cost of contraception could mean the difference between making the rent and putting food on the table. And when women don’t have access to reproductive health care, the impact is clear: Nearly half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended or mistimed ― one of the highest amongst developed nations in the world.