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Historic Anniversary: Birth Control Legalized for Married Couples

PHOTO: It was June 7th of 1965 when a U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalized contraception for married couples. CREDIT: Nate Grigg
PHOTO: It was June 7th of 1965 when a U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalized contraception for married couples. CREDIT: Nate Grigg
June 7, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today marks the anniversary of a historic milestone in Americans' access to birth control and the reproductive rights of women.

It was on this date in 1965 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that married couples have the right to birth control in the case of Griswold v. Connecticut.

"And so it was an important ruling in terms that it allowed married couples to have access to contraceptives and it also sort of started what became the ‘privacy clause,’” explains Steven Emmert, chief operating officer of Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee. “That was the first time that was mentioned."

The privacy clause refers to a woman's right to privacy when it comes to reproductive issues.

Emmert says in the decades since, the expanded access to birth control has helped to improve the health and economic security of women in this country.

In 2014, birth control will be covered as a preventive benefit under the Affordable Care Act, without a co-pay, but Emmert notes that the battle over birth control is not over.

"We still have elected officials and bosses who don't see birth control as basic health care,” he says. “But the fact of the matter is 99 percent of women who are sexually active have at some point in their life used birth control, and so it is basic health care."

One person who can speak to the need of contraception as part of basic health care is 19-year-old Max Smith of Knoxville. Smith was a sexually active teen, who had pain with menstruation, but through Planned Parenthood was able to access free birth control.

"It made me a lot less worried in general about my life and my future and it made my amount of physical pain go down a whole lot,” she recalls. “Having birth control as accessible as any other medical need is absolutely vital for women's basic health and basic freedom over their body and their life."

It's estimated that the average woman spends about five years pregnant or trying to become pregnant and three decades trying to avoid an unintended pregnancy.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TN