Griswold v. Connecticut: It happened Here
Fifty years ago Estelle Griswold, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut and Dr. C. Lee Buxton, chairman of the Yale Medical School Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, were arrested for providing birth control to married women. At the time, administering contraception was illegal in the state. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled in a 7-2 decision that the Connecticut law barring contraception violated the constitutional right to privacy. This was a landmark success for advocates of access to contraception across the country and helped lay the foundation years later for a favorable decision in Roe v. Wade.
Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, the organization that Griswold led, has since become Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (PPSNE). We are so proud to carry on the legacy of Estelle Griswold by making contraception available to the many patients who seek it each year.
Join us as we celebrate this amazing part of our history!
On April 30, PPSNE and the American Association for the History of Medicine hosted a roundtable discussion celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Griswold v. Connecticut.
Judy Tabar, President and CEO of PPSNE, was a key member of the distinguished panel that discussed how the Griswold decision impacted the lives of women, men and families over the past half century.
“Birth control is mainstream health care and has a profound impact on women’s lives,” Tabar said. “The impact of accessible contraception has health benefits that extend well beyond preventing unintended pregnancies.”
Judy Tabar, President and CEO, PPSNE, spoke about the public health legacy of the landmark Griswold v. Connecticut decision.
Distinguished guests gathered in New Haven, the city where access to birth control was made a reality. Guests filled the ballroom at the Omni Hotel to hear more about Griswold and its impact over the last half-century.
Estelle Griswold, the executive director of Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, and C. Lee Buxton, doctor and professor at Yale Medical School, were arrested in 1961 and found guilty as accessories to providing illegal contraception. They were fined $100 each. Griswold and Buxton appealed to the Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut, claiming that the law violated the U.S. Constitution. The Connecticut court upheld the conviction, and Griswold and Buxton appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. A decision was made on June 7, 1965.
In addition to Tabar, other panelists were Linda Greenhouse, Joseph Goldstein Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School; Heather Munro Prescott, Professor of History at Central Connecticut State University; Reva Siegel, Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Professor of Law at Yale Law School; and Rosemary A. Stevens, DeWitt Wallace Distinguished Scholar, Weill Cornell Medical College, Department of Psychiatry. The engaging discussion was moderated by Barbara Sicherman, Kenan Professor Emerita at Trinity College.
Stevens was prescribed birth control by Dr. Buxton and was a witness in the Griswold case. She recalled her thoughts at the time: “The law was hypocritical and grossly unfair. It was a stupid law and it needed to be abolished,” Stevens said.
Tabar also reflected on the successes over the last 50 years, but said that more needs to be done.
“The time to act is now, so when an event like this occurs 50 years from now to celebrate Griswold’s 100th Anniversary, we will have erased the persistent health disparities that currently exist for young women, low-income women and women of color,” Tabar said. “Let’s work together to build a future where all women, men and teens can access the information and services they need to make smart and healthy decisions so they can fully pursue their dreams, wherever they may lead.”
In 2015, PPSNE celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Griswold v. Connecticut with a series of events including panel discussions, networking receptions and many other fun and exciting activities.