On June 7, 1965, in the landmark case Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court overturned a Connecticut law that prohibited married women from accessing family planning services, specifically birth control. The Court’s decision established that married couples have a constitutional right to privacy, which encompasses the choice to use contraception. Only seven years later, the Court extended this right to unmarried couples in Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972), and in the 1973 Roe v. Wade case, the Court made the groundbreaking decision to legalize abortion, relying on the Griswold foundation and applying the right to privacy.
The Reform Movement has long held that individuals should be afforded the autonomy to make decisions about their own bodies, in conversation with doctors or with whomever they choose to discuss. Our tradition teaches us that women in particular are commanded to care for their own health and well-being above all else, underscoring the vital need for access to quality family planning services as well as the agency to make personal decisions about reproductive health care.
Over the past 52 years, progress around access to contraception has continued on the federal level. The Affordable Care Act, passed during the Obama administration, includes a provision that mandates contraception coverage by employers, originally with an exemption for houses of worship and an accommodation for religious non-profits. However, today, this mandate is at risk of being rolled back by President Trump, who intends to expand the existing rule to allow all employers to claim religious objections to providing contraception coverage. This change would upset a careful balance between religious freedom and civil rights, and inhibit many women from accessing contraceptive coverage.
With much uncertainty comes the recognition that we must continue to advocate for access to safe, legal reproductive health services. As far as we have come, there is still much more to be done. Take action by contacting your Members of Congress, and urge them to protect access to women’s health care.
To learn more about reproductive rights, visit the RAC’s issue page.