Friday, February 24, 2012

Baird v Eisenstadt at 40

by Edd Doerr

Every year on January 22 we celebrate Roe v Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that liberated women from the medieval misogynism that denied women the right to decide how to deal with problem pregnancies. Yet largely forgotten is the Supreme Court's ruling in Baird v Eisenstadt, the 6-1 decision on March 22, 1972,written by (Catholic) justice William Brennan that preceded and set the stage for Roe v Wade.

Brennan wrote that: "If the right to privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted government interference into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child."

The case arose when Bill Baird, a leading birth control and abortion rights activist since 1963, was arrested in Boston for lecturing on birth control and handing a young unmarried woman a can of contraceptive foam, for which he was actually jailed for several weeks.

Since Roe and especially since the Republican sweep in November 2010, efforts in Congress and state legislatures to impede women's reproductive rights have mushroomed almost out of control. Religious and political differences have to be set aside. Women and men of all persuasions must work together to turn back these efforts. This year's federal and state elections will be critical. Roe v Wade hangs by a very thin thread. Whoever is President after November will shape the Supreme Court for generations to come.

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