Thank You Estelle Griswold

supreme-courtThis month marks an important anniversary for women. It’s the 50th anniversary of a landmark decision from the US Supreme Court: Griswold v. Connecticut.

On June 7, 1965, the Supreme Court found that married couples have a “right to privacy.” This right to marital privacy resulted in the legalization of contraceptive use.

Griswold v. Connecticut has had a strong impact on women’s health and rights today. So, let’s take a stroll down memory lane to see how it all went down.

“You Have the Right to Remain Silent”

It all started in November 1961, several years before the case made it to the Supreme Court.

Detectives came one afternoon to New Haven, Connecticut and arrested Estelle Griswold and Dr. C. Lee Buxton. Griswold was the executive producer of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut and Buxton was the chairman of Yale’s department of obstetrics and gynecology.

What was their crime? Daring to open a family-planning clinic in Connecticut, a deeply Catholic state that had some of the strongest anti-birth control laws in the country at the time.

As punishment for breaking this law, Buxton and Griswold were tried, found guilty, and each fined $100. The clinic was also shut down.

An Antiquated Law

The law that Buxton and Griswold were arrested for breaking was passed in 1879 and it prohibited the sale and use of contraceptives. As a result, it banned Planned Parenthood clinics from providing birth control information and products to the public.

Griswold, through social work and travel, and Buxton, through his work as a physician, became interested in helping the women of Connecticut obtain access to birth control.

Buxton and two of his patients even sued to repeal the law. However, the court didn’t issue a ruling, stating that the law wasn’t enforced. The arrest and conviction of Buxton and Griswold proved them wrong.

A Victory for Women

Both the Appellate Division of the Circuit Court and the Connecticut Supreme Court upheld the conviction of Buxton and Griswold, but the tenacious Griswold didn’t stop. She brought her case to the US Supreme Court.

Her persistence was rewarded, as the Supreme Court found in her favor and struck down Connecticut’s absurd anti-birth control law.

Both states and individuals doubted the impact of the decision at first, but it ended up changing the landscape of women’s rights and reproductive health nationwide.

The Supreme Court later expanded on the decision, extending it to include a right to privacy for unmarried couples in Eisenstadt v. Baird and a woman’s right to seek an abortion in Roe v. Wade.

It’s clear that women in the United States are indebted to Estelle Griswold for seeking justice for all women. Thank you Estelle Griswold.

Find out more about Estelle Griswold by visiting her Wikipedia page.

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Shannon Flynn

Shannon Flynn is an attorney and freelance writer in Columbus, Ohio. She received both her bachelor's degree in Psychology and law degree from The Ohio State University. In her spare time, she enjoys dancing, doing Pilates, playing with her two cats, and spending time with her fiancé.