A poignant op-ed in the New York Times today by a woman who was one of the pioneering plaintiffs 55 years ago — FIFTY-FIVE — whose lawsuits gave rise to the ruling that states could not make it illegal to obtain contraception. It was part of an effort to allow family planning clinics in Connecticut.
Writes Louise Trubek, then a law student:
I was proud to put my name on the case. To serve as a plaintiff, though a largely passive role, suited my vision of my future as a social justice lawyer. I supported Planned Parenthood. I believed women should have access to birth control so they could have both a career and a family. I wanted those things for myself. I was no sexual radical: I was married, a “good girl” uninterested in sexual freedom, and I thought of abortion as frightening. But I was planning to have a family and a career as a lawyer. I believed I should be free to choose the timing of my children’s births so I could do both.
And today, with Republican candidates “threatening, yet again, a woman’s right to control her own fertility”?
…I am dismayed by how few of the issues I was fighting for at the time of Poe are resolved. To be sure, we have important rights and more legal privacy. But we still have not provided all the support women need to combine rewarding careers and healthy families. Planned Parenthood is under siege and poor women who are seeking comprehensive reproductive care are still at risk. Presidential candidates can get away with saying that all contraception should be outlawed. Comprehensive child care services are difficult to locate, and fully financed family and medical leave is still controversial.
In short, we won the legal battle but not the war. Women are still not guaranteed control over their lives, because the necessary social supports were never secure. The initial goal of Griswold was to help women — and even though the precedent has helped with same-sex marriage laws, those initial needs, especially of poor women, have been left largely unmet.