These crazy GOP White House hopefuls have dreams well beyond Roe v. Wade. They want to dismantle Griswold v. Connecticut, which gave us the right to birth control and privacy.
Exactly 50 years ago on Sunday, June 7, the Supreme Court ruled that a married couple had a right to have sex for pleasure, in essence, and married women everywhere breathed a magnificent sigh of relief. The ruling of Griswold v. Connecticut gave married couples the constitutional right to privacy in intimate matters, marking the end of an era of mostly ignored but still technically enforceable rules surrounding contraception that forced married women to choose between celibacy or potential childbirth. Finally, spouses were legally allowed to determine what sort of “non-procreative” sex practices they wanted to engage in, in their home, between their own sheets.
Sorry, single ladies. Your time was still another seven years down the road.
There’s a lot of discussion about how the GOP’s big goal—if they win both the White House and Congress—is to overturn Roe v. Wade. If only that were true. Despite the constant claims to the contrary, if social conservatives could have any sort of do-over, they would go after Griswold instead. After all, it was Griswold that established a right of privacy that eventually lead to birth control being available to everyone. It was Griswold that opened the door to abortion being made legal in every state in the nation. It was even Griswold that lead eventually to an overturning of a ban on sodomy and opened the door for marriage equality.
No wonder the religious right hates birth control so much. When they say that contraception has lead to the decay of American morals, they don’t just mean in the bedroom, but in the courtroom, too.
With over a dozen Republican candidates either officially or unofficially running for office, we can already see clearly how legal birth control is on the ropes. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a clear front runner, spent his career destroying programs that helped people access any form of contraception. In the legislature he repeatedly attempted to block birth-control access, and as a governor he tried to repeal the state’s contraception equity law, and did succeed in removing reproductive health-care funding in BadgerCare, the state’s low-income insurance plan.
He also received a 100 percent ranking and a rare endorsement from Pro-Life Wisconsin, an anti-abortion and anti-birth-control organization, while he was running for governor. When asked if that meant that he wanted to ban the Pill, he claimed that wasn’t what the survey asked. (It did ask if he would sign a “personhood” bill, to which he said yes, and it did provide him with background materials saying hormonal contraception is an abortion. Maybe Walker didn’t read them.)
Pro-Life Wisconsin, incidentally, has hosted a protest of the Griswold anniversary for the last decade.
Of course Walker isn’t alone. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who declared another run for the presidency in May, told press in 2012 that he disagreed with the Griswold ruling, and that at the very least, states should have the right to ban it, if for no other reason than states should always have the right to ban things if they want to no matter how ridiculous the idea might be. As for birth control itself, well, he considered that “not okay.” As he told one blogger on the campaign trail, “One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is, I think, the dangers of contraception in this country … Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that’s okay, contraception is okay. It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”
And former Texas Governor Rick Perry is right there with the rest. Perry referred to the Griswold decision as “nonsense,” saying, “The Court decided in 1963 that the people of Connecticut were unconstitutionally outlawing the sale of contraceptives, because—it imagined—in the ‘penumbras’ of the Constitution there is a right to privacy that prohibits that policy. Penumbras? What total and complete nonsense. The justices made a policy and then made something up in the Constitution to effectuate it.” Then during his 2012 run, the GOP candidate signed on to the Personhood USA pledge, agreeing to “advance state and federal laws and amendments that recognize the unalienable right to life of all human beings as persons at every stage of development.” Yes, even those unimplanted, fertilized eggs abortion opponents are convinced are starving to death in every uterine lining, a veritable “baby graveyard” below the belt.
Of course, we cannot forget former Arkansas Governor Mike “Uncle Sugar” Huckabee, who believed that women couldn’t control their libidos and it was his job to free them from the tyranny of wanting birth control without a co-pay. In 2007 he told the Des Moines Register that “there are some forms of birth control that really are the destruction of a fertilized egg,” and when he was then asked if he though the government should ban that, he responded, “Yeah, I personally think there are better ways to deal with contraception than destroying a human life. So, again I’m going to say that I’m always going to make my position on the side of protecting human life.”
Here we are, a full half a century after the Supreme Court ruled that a right to privacy incorporates the right to prevent a pregnancy using hormonal contraception—at least, for those who are married. Yet despite five decades of settled law surrounding it, and copious decisions cascading from it reaffirming that view, we have a pool of major GOP presidential contenders who if they don’t want to ban birth control all together, want to at the very least have the option to do so at a state level, or block access to it via conscience clauses, employer vetoes and federal defunding, or have sworn to back “personhood” bills that would make using them an actual crime.
Grab your pills and IUDs tight, ladies. We may be celebrating an anniversary, but your birth control has never been more vulnerable.
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